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PCTs too poor to bring in GP private providers


Government scheme to recruit private firms to run GP services hits buffers

At least half of the PCTs corralled by the Government into a scheme aimed at bringing in private firms to run GP services may pull out, Pulse has learned.

Under the second wave of the Innovation in Primary Care Contracting programme, the 30 most under-doctored PCTs have had to tell the Department of Health what extra capacity they want to bring in.

The department will then pay for and run a tender process to find a provider.

But a source close to the scheme said many of the trusts planned to withdraw because they cannot afford to fund the new services.

The source told Pulse: 'We think at least 15 will pull out. The PCTs can still do local procurement but this will not bring improvements in services for under-privileged patients.'

PCTs were too 'strapped for cash' and would have to take money from hospital services in order to continue with the scheme, the source added.

A pilot of the procurement programme involving six PCTs, launched two-and-a-half years ago, has also been beset by problems. Only two of the projects are under way – in Stamford Hill and Barking and Dagenham in London.

Two trusts are still in negotiations with independent contractors but a further two have pulled out because they cannot afford it.

Plymouth PCT was searching for GPs to work with patients in residential and nursing homes, but gave up because it could not find a provider at the right price.

A trust spokesperson said: 'Bidders did present some innovative proposals' but the PCT concluded that none of the bids could be accepted – on the grounds of affordability.'

Dr Mark Hunt, a GP in Frome, Somerset, and primary care director of Mercury Health, which runs the Stamford Hill pilot, said competition had to be introduced into primary care.

He added: 'If you do not have national procurement you will have more of the same problems with finding doctors.'

The Department of Health refused to comment on suggestions that PCTs were pulling out of the scheme.

A spokesperson said: 'We are absolutely committed to tackling inequalities in GP provision. We will work with PCTs to attract providers.'

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