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Independents' Day

PCTs rush to bring in private providers to run GP services

One in three PCTs will strike a deal with a private company to run GP services by the end of this year, a major Pulse survey reveals.

The survey of 104 trusts shows the rush towards privately-run NHS GP surgeries is surging ahead at a far faster pace than expected. Ten PCTs said they had already signed alternative provider medical services contracts, 10 had contracts out to tender and 12 planned to tender before the end of 2006.

Far from being restricted to the deprived under-doctored

areas envisaged by ministers, APMS contracts are already spreading into leafy affluent shires.

Just four of the 32 trusts forging ahead with APMS were among the 36 under-doctored areas ordered by ministers to bring in private providers.

Trusts with contracts already sealed ranged from deprived areas like Barnsley, and Wednesbury and West Bromwich to leafy shires including Herefordshire, and East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey.

GPs accused PCTs of rushing into APMS schemes in a bid to gain political 'brownie points'. The issue is set to be a flashpoint at next week's LMCs conference, with delegates voting on a demand to restrict APMS to areas where there is 'an identified need' and existing GPs cannot deliver the service.

The King's Fund this week urged the Government to come clean over its plans to create an NHS market.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the GPC commissioning and service subcommittee, said PCTs must not be allowed to stray beyond the original remit for APMS ­ adding GP capacity in under-doctored areas.

Dr Peter Jolliffe, Devon LMC chair, said there was no justification for South Hams and West Devon PCT's plan to use APMS to establish a practice in a new town. 'We don't have any problems attracting doctors here,' he said.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs ­ where several PCTs have APMS schemes at various stages of development ­ said: 'PCTs see alternative pro-viders as a feather in their cap.'

Professor Allyson Pollock, head of health policy at University College London, urged the Department of Health to stick to its commitment to pilot APMS in six PCTs before rolling it out nationally.

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