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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Under-fire NPfIT chief wants a bit of slack

GPs should use practice-based commissioning to fight off the 'serious threat' from private firms that want to provide essential services, the GPC has advised.

In new guidance, the GPC argues there are 'compelling reasons' for GPs to take on practice based-commissioning despite the risks involved. The positive advice marks a change from the GPC's previously guarded attitude to the scheme, which starts on April 1.

The GPC urged GPs to take on a commissioning budget and also to tender for services under a separate alternative provider medical services (APMS) contract.

APMS contracts were set up by the Government alongside the new GMS and PMS contracts as a way of bringing private firms into primary care. Ministers have put pressure on PCTs to use the contracts to improve services.

The GPC guidance warned that APMS is a 'serious threat to general practice'. But it added that practices can also use APMS to ensure they maintain control over services and stop fragmentation of primary care.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, GPC chair, said: 'This is something that practices should seriously consider. In the medium-term the benefits will outweigh the negatives.'

The advice added that GPs can avoid having to take on Choose and Book if they sign up for practice-based commissioning. GPs can 'demonstrate a commitment' to Choose and Book without having to sign any contracts. More resources may be offered later in the year, it said.

An NHS Alliance survey of 600 GPs released last week found 25 per cent planned to take on practice-based commissioning immediately, with a further 18 per cent doing so at a later date.

By Rob Finch

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