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Private firms to help dictate GP surgery closures

By Gareth Iacobucci

Private sector companies are being handed key roles in deciding which GP surgeries will face the axe, under controversial plans to consolidate smaller practices in new premises, Pulse can reveal.

Some GPs are already have already been pitched into disputes over the move, with private firm Assura working as a consultant for South West Essex PCT to run the rule over a string of small practices in the area, influencing which will move to new polyclinic style premises.

Meanwhile the Department of Health admits that under its Framework for procuring External Support for Commissioners (FESC) scheme, private sector companies will help PCTs shape the consolidation of services.

South West Essex PCT is using Assura Group to look at the need for new health facilities in the Tilbury area, having already come up with plans to close what it claims are ‘crumbling' surgeries elsewhere in the area.

But local GPs have reacted furiously to the plans, claiming they were not consulted, and are refusing to co-operate in the assessment.

‘(The PCT) would appreciate full co-operation be given to the consultants so that they can get an accurate view of the area and present it to the PCT,' a letter to GPs reads

But Dr Anand Deshpande, a GP in Stanford-le-Hope and chairman of South Essex LMC, said: ‘GPs are not very happy, and are not going to take part. They said they have no information about why Assura is doing the premises survey. All the surgeries were assessed three years ago to see whether they were fit for purpose.

A spokesperson for South West Essex PCT said GP buildings in the area were in dire need of being replaced and insisted that GPs elsewhere in the county had welcomed discussions on moving to two new GP led centres planned for Wickford and Laindon.

She added that bringing in the private company to review the current services would prevent PCT executives from being snowed under with too much work on service re-design.

‘They (Assura) will be working very closely with GPs and coming back with proposals in the next few months,' she added.

A Department of Health spokesperson said private companies could be involved in ‘shaping the structure of supply', including ‘reviewing the current service'.

‘Clearly, this could have some relevance to (for example) service location,' she added.

New controversy over private sector role in surgery closures New controversy over private sector role in surgery closures

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