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Row over Darzi centre 'paid five times as much per consultation'

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs have become embroiled in a bitter row over claims Darzi centre consultations are costing the NHS five times more per consultation than those at standard practices.

Oxfordshire LMC claims that a GP-led health centre in Banbury, which opened last October - is receiving around £140 per consultation compared to just £26 for an average local practice.

The assertion follows Pulse's investigation last July which showed that funding per patient at GP-led health centres is on average almost three times as high, and in some cases as much as seven times as high, as at GMS practices.

NHS Oxfordshire, which told Pulse last year that the cost per registered patient in Year 5 of the contract is £178, said the LMC's calculations, based on attendance figures it gave to them, were not directly comparable to funding for GMS practices, because of the additional services and start-up costs of the Darzi clinic.

But furious GPs have demanded that the trust applies the same level of financial pressure on the centre as it is on other local practices, and have called for full publication of the costing to allow proper scrutiny of the cash being spent.

Dr Prit Buttar, a GP in Abingdon, LMC member and head of the GPC finance committee, said: ‘We came to a figure of slightly more than £140 per consultation. With my practice it is about £26-£27. That's a huge premium to pay for a practice that is only open for a few extra hours.'

He added: ‘At a time when they are saying to us that all orthopaedic referrals have to go through a referral triage hub in order to reduce activity, they must apply the same standard to all areas. There must be no sacred cows.'

But the trust said it was confident that the centre – run by local GP company Principal Medical Limited – would deliver value for money in the long-term.

A spokeswoman for NHS Oxfordshire said: ‘It is not comparing like with like to compare the cost of a consultation at the GP-led health Centre to one at a typical local GP practice.'

‘The PCT is confident that the new service will deliver over its life value for money and make a positive contribution to primary care in the area. We are always looking for value for money in our contracts and continually monitor them.'

Funding for GP-led health centres has come under intense scrutiny Funding for GP-led health centres has come under intense scrutiny

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