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PCT passes the hat round local GPs

East Cambridgeshire and Fenland PCT asks GPs for short-term loan to cover deficit

A cash-strapped PCT asked GPs to lend it money to ensure it balanced its books at the end of the financial year.

East Cambridgeshire and Fenland PCT said it would give GPs incentives if they offered loans for 'a few days'.

The trust, which in October forecast a £2.3 million overspend, also suggested to practices they voluntarily delay payments to help its plight. But it has been forced to withdraw the proposals after Cambridgeshire LMC 'named and shamed' the trust and warned GPs could have faced legal action if they had agreed.

GPs could have broken the 1974 Consumer Credit Act for the criminal offence of trading without a licence if they had agreed to offer a loan for a financial incentive.

Charging interest to the PCT on the loans would only cause more problems in the next financial year, the LMC also said.

In a letter to GPs in the trust, LMC chief executive Dr Guy Watkins cited potential loss of pension earnings, the lack of a legal framework, problems with tax arrangements and probity as reasons for rejecting the plan.

Dr Watkins said he had named and shamed the PCT 'with regret'.

He said: 'We had a number of conversations to try and distract them from this course of action, but unfortunately they went ahead and started making offers to practices.'

Other GPs in the area were sympathetic to the PCTs plight.

Dr David Bevan, a GP in Upwell, said he suspected managers felt 'bullied' by the Government into finding any method of balancing books.

He said: 'What else drives a competent chief executive into this?'

Dr Peter Godbehere, a GP in Wisbech, said he 'would never have lent the money' but was prepared to be flexible about payment dates.

He said: 'We have plenty of businesses who don't pay us on time and I think you can be sympathetic to the PCT.'

A spokeswoman for East Cambridgeshire and Fenland PCT admitted it 'had considered the possibility of asking GP practices whether it would be possible to consider a cash advance.'

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