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Profit alert as Primecare loses out-of-hours bids

Primecare has insisted it has no plans to pull out of GP out-of-hours services because it is losing out in the battle to win contracts from primary care organisations.

The statement came after the deputising service's parent company, Nestor Healthcare Group, announced a 'full review' of its activities when Primecare failed to pick up as many out-of-hours contracts as had been expected. If the trend continued it 'would lead to a significant reduction in the number of GPs it serviced', the company said.

The news came in a profits warning which wiped 37 per cent off Nestor's share price in a single day.

The company, which used to serve around a third of GPs, has failed with bids in Portsmouth, Plymouth, Kent, Sussex, Watford and parts of Buckinghamshire.

In the latest blow to the company, Primecare last week lost out to a GP co-op in the battle to cover 300 GPs in Gateshead, North Tyneside and Newcastle.

Primarecare medical director Dr Mike Sadler claimed the tendering process in some areas put private providers at a disadvantage and said PCTs were failing to heed a Department of Health pledge to preserve plurality of provision.

Primecare said it had written to all trusts to assure them it would continue to provide services 'throughout 2004 and beyond'. A spokeswoman added: 'We have contracts and commitments and we will continue to honour those.'

The Government's emergency care tsar, Professor Sir George Alberti, said he would be 'concerned about maintaining services' if Primecare quit GP out-of-hours, but PCTs 'would patch something together'.

By Nerys Hairon

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