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NHS managers plan to procure ‘significant number’ of APMS contracts in New Year

Exclusive NHS England has revealed it will begin the procurement process for a ‘significant number’ of APMS contracts in the new year, and has already begun moves to promote the contracts with private healthcare providers.

Pulse has learned that the NHS England local area team will begin a process to procure ‘roughly ten’ APMS contracts in January 2014, and held its first ‘engagement event’ to inform potential providers yesterday.

Most of the contracts are being reprocured as the existing APMS contract is coming to the end of the current contract term,but NHS London did not rule out new contracts being awarded.

NHS London said it would procure a significant number of standardised alternative primary medical services contracts across London during 2013/14 and 2014/15 and that it was introducing ‘standardised’ terms for all the contracts across the capital.

But GP leaders said that the contracts were a threat to GMS and PMS practices and did not provide long-term security for patients.

The move comes as a number of APMS practices have been shut in recent years because they have been deemed financially unviable.

The NHS London event, held in London, intended to ‘inform and engage with current and potential providers of primary medical services about our proposals to procure a significant number of standardised alternative primary medical services contracts across London during 2013/14 and 2014/15’.

The publicity for the event added: ‘Whilst the immediate focus of discussions will be on the   upcoming APMS procurements in London,  this event should also be of interest to all potential bidders across the whole of London, given our plans, over the course of the next five years using a  standardised approach to procurements, contracts, specification and KPIs .’

A spokesperson for NHS London told Pulse: ‘While the exact number will be determined when the procurement process commences in January 2014, there will be roughly 10 contracts.

‘In the majority of cases it is because the existing APMS contracts are coming to the end of the current contract term, and so these contracts are being reprocured.’

Private providers have already expressed an interest in bidding for the APMS contracts. Allan Johnson, chief executive of The Practice, attended the event.

He said: ‘APMS has had a pretty varied history and it does look like NHS London are trying to make them more consistent. They are clearly wanting to focus on quality not price which we regard as a good thing. We will look at each tender on its own merits and if we think we can deliver a high quality, innovative service in a sustainable manner then we will bid.

‘In the past the contracts have varied enormously in format and structure so having a standard format as well as terms and pricing will be better.’

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC chair and a GP in Stanmore, London, said that the APMS contracts were a short-term measure.

He told Pulse: ‘GPMS practices provide highly cost effective delivery of general practice services and we all have considerable experience of costly APMS contracts that have been discontinued.

‘Area teams should be ensuring that at a time of austerity that they commission GP services that are most cost effective and likely to provide the continuity of care and stability that local populations deserve. Short-term APMS contracts are bureaucratically expensive and do not provide any long-term security for local populations.’

Dr Tony Grewal, medical director of Londonwide LMCs and a GP in Hillingdon, said he had been told that these were the first of a number of contracts to be awarded.

He said: ‘My understanding is that there are to be ten coming up for renewal shortly, with an order of 100 more over the next few years.’

Dr Grewal added that he understood the contracts would include extended hours and Saturday openingm, and would probably not be that attractive to GPs.

He added: ‘The flavour of primary care contracting for the future as things stand is APMS. They are not offering new GMS or APMS contracts. In terms of succession planning and the future of general practice, that philosophy is a threat. This is just the status quo being renewed and continued.’