PCTs told: review private contracts
PCTs have been ordered to review any contracts they have with private sector companies to provide health care and 'constrain' funding agreements.
The Department of Health said Alternative Provider contracts must be examined to identify elements trusts can change to bring funding into line with other providers such as GMS.
Most APMS contracts are for out-of-hours care.
Dr Mo Dewji, head of contracting at the department, said the move mirrored constraints made in PMS contracts.
He said the move ensured PCTs that had not been pru- dent in contracting to the private sector would be 'careful' in future.
'It's always been the case that there's got to be a level playing field and this makes that clear and ensures the regulations match up with the policy,' he said.
GPs said the move would ensure no health care provider received preferential funding.
Dr Rory McCrea, chair of ChilversMcCrea Healthcare, which has the UK's first in-hours APMS contract, said the news showed the department establishing a point of principle.
'We've always believed you need to exist within the normal cash envelope,' he said.
Dr Allyson Pollock, a primary care academic who opposes private sector involvement in the NHS, said the move would not put the private sector off becoming involved in primary care but would make them even more 'ruthless' in the pursuit of profit.