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Store chains don’t rule out running surgeries

Leading supermarket chains have refused to rule out the possibility of directly providing in-store GP services, as opposed to merely hosting surgeries.

The development comes amid growing unease over the private sector's role in primary care, following plans by Heart of Birmingham PCT to adopt a franchising model.

Tesco, Asda and Virgin were cited as contenders to take on franchised practices, and although all three denied they had been approached by the trust, Asda and Tesco refused to rule out the possibility of providing GP services in the future.

John Evans, superintendent pharmacist at Asda, said renting space to GPs may only be ‘the first step'. He said: ‘There's nothing stopping us moving in to run our own in the future. We wouldn't rule anything out.'

A Tesco spokesperson said the company had ‘no plans for GP services in stores', but ‘we never rule anything in or out'.

Peter Gibson, Boots head of public affairs, said it had been in talks with PCTs and GPs, but its current position was ‘all about providing space for GPs'.

But he added: ‘Who knows where that may lead to? It has to remain a potential option.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman told Pulse the committee had met key retailers including Boots and Virgin, and understood they were purely interested in renting premises out.

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