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Telephone consultations fail to satisfy patients

What is it?

It stands for Alternative Provider Medical Services.

Of course. So?

It is a new contractual option, alongside GMS and PMS, allowing PCTs to commission the private, not-for-profit or voluntary sectors, in addition to other parts of the NHS, to provide services.

Sounds like back-door privatisation.

Ministers insist it is not. They say it allows PCTs to commission more 'flexibly' and not rely on overburdened GPs to provide services.

Who is going to use it?

It's predominantly intended for inner-city PCTs where GP recruitment difficulties are hitting hardest.

What types of service can it include?

It is predominantly for more specialised services, such as additional or enhanced services, or out of hours, but it is also possible for PCTs to enter into APMS contracts for essential services.

That sounds like competition against GPs.

Critics have questioned whether ARMS spells the end of GPs as preferred providers of essential services. The Government maintains it will more likely be used where practices have opted out of services.

Anything else I should know?

PCTs can decide a practice has not delivered 'acceptable' levels of service, not renew their contract and replace them with a private provider on an APMS contract.

Can GMS and PMS GPs tender for APMS contracts?

In theory, yes. If a GP practice was successful it would hold a separate APMS contract alongside its GMS/PMS contract. But practices would probably have to band together to be successful.

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