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PCTs get 12 months to bring in firms

The Government has ordered the 30 most under-doctored PCTs to bring in new providers of GP services within a year, writes Rob Finch.

The trusts were this week summoned to the Department of Health and told that if they had not already planned to bring in new providers, including private firms, they would be forced into a national procurement plan.

Sir Ian Carruthers, acting NHS chief executive, told PCTs there was 'no opt-out clause' and they would get no extra cash to do the work.

The move comes after the department pledged in the recent White Paper it would 'ensure PCTs actively commission additional practices' as an 'urgent priority'.

Ministers want as much as 15 per cent of GP services to be run by independent and private providers.

But GPs said the demands were politically motivated and based on a 'blunt' statistic of

under-doctored areas.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said: 'It's stupid. It's what politicians do when faced with a problem.' There was 'not a shred of evidence' to suggest the private sector could solve the problem, he added.

Dr James Kingsland, chair of the National Association of Primary Care and a GP in Wallasey, Merseyside, said the plan was a 'knee-jerk reaction', adding that extra investment was needed.

He said: 'Too often you find that when PCTs are hit with a stick they will react with short-termism.'

Chris Locke, secretary of Nottinghamshire LMCs which covers two of the 30 PCTs, said: 'In Mansfield we've lived with this problem for years. We've actively recruited nurse practitioners and used PMS flexibilities to solve this.'

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