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'PCT bullying me over premises'

A GP has complained of being 'bullied' by his PCT into moving his practice into new NHS Lift-funded premises.

Dr Ken Uncle has been told his own plans to expand his practice in Dagenham, Essex, will not be funded and it could be 'decommissioned' if he refuses to relocate.

Dr Uncle is resisting the move because he says his 4,000 patients prefer being part of a small practice rather than an impersonal polyclinic.

But Barking and Dagenham PCT has said his practice does not meet 'minimum standard requirements for health care' and is unsuitable for development.

A letter from Hilary Ayerst, the PCT's chief executive, on 13 December 2005 stated that its 'long-term decision' was to close the practice.

She wrote: 'The PCT will only support the existing practice up to and including June 2008.'

A letter in early February, withdrew the threat of decommissioning, but reiterated it would only support future growth 'in accordance with PCT strategies'.

The letter added: 'Decisions on growth and expansion of services outside PCT approval will be at the practice's risk.'

Dr Uncle said the attitude of the PCT was 'belligerent and bullying ­ it is not subtle coercion'. He added: 'I want to provide a small personal service. That's impossible within a large practice.'

The pressure from Barking and Dagenham PCT comes despite a recent report by North East London strategic health authority, which covers the trust, which criticised the Lift programme (Pulse, 9 February).

The report said Lift was far more expensive than other premises development routes and had been abandoned by some trusts in the region.

Dr Uncle said: 'If I was to take out a business loan there's no guarantee I would get notional rent reimbursed, while Lift takes away millions of pounds and becomes the only option.'

Steve Wedgwood, head of governance and communications at the PCT, denied it had bullied Dr Uncle.

He said analysis of the premises showed it was unsuitable for development and the PCT was not obliged to support projects it did not consider value for money.

'It's not going to close,' he said. 'As long as there are 4,000 patients there is still the income from that. There is no hidden agenda, but we are not able to fund development.'

Dr Uncle resigned as a GP in 2004 in protest at the new GMS contract but remained a sleeping partner at the practice. He now plans to return in April in a bid to safeguard the practice's future.

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