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PCT provider arms bid for control of polyclinics

By Gareth Iacobucci

PCT provider arms are bidding for APMS contracts in tenders presided over by their own managers, in a move described as a ‘glaring conflict of interest' by the GPC.

GP leaders claim the moves, revealed by a Pulse investigation, fly in the face of the Government's drive to clearly spit PCTs' provider and commissioning functions.

In a quarter of the 20 trusts that supplied information, provider arms were involved in bids for GP-led health centres or new GP practices, either on their own or in partnerships with another provider.

A further 28 trusts refused to disclose whether their provider arms were bidding on grounds of commercial confidentiality, adding fuel to recent criticism from GP leaders that trusts are cloaking their activities in secrecy.

The provider-arm bids are occurring despite the Government stating its desire to see PCT's separate their role as commissioners from their ‘arms length' provider functions, via its World Class Commissioning drive.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator and a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said it should be ‘inconceivable' for PCT provider arms to bid for contracts their own trust bosses were judging.

‘It's such a glaring conflict of interest,' he said, adding that any decisions to award contracts to provider arms ‘would need to be challenged'.

Dr Simon Bradley, chair of Avon LMC, said he had serious concerns about PCT provider arms in his area bidding for contracts.

He said: ‘There is potential for the PCT provider arm to get insider information, and be in a privileged position when bidding for contracts.'

A Department of Health spokesman said it was up to PCTs to award the contracts to the service provider that offer ‘the best quality and value for money'.

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