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Shared Business Services set for new PCT deal

A controversial joint venture between the Government and a private company is set to takeover contracts for patient registration, screening and GP payments across the South West of England, despite LMC opposition to the move.

Pulse understands that the majority of the 14 PCTs in the South West of England are set to enter contract discussions with NHS Shared Business Services – run jointly by the Department of Health and Steria – to takeover family health services, after identifying NHS SBS as their ‘preferred provider' ahead of alternative proposals tabled by local providers across the region.

Last month Pulse revealed LMC leaders across the South West were fiercely opposed to the plans, after other areas using NHS SBS had been beset with delays in payments and mistakes in patient records.

Dr Philip Fielding, chair of Gloucestershire LMC and a GP in Cheltenham, said he understood that most PCTs in the South West were set to enter talks with NHS SBS.

Dr Fielding said: ‘We are awaiting final confirmation of our local PCT's decision but I sense that the tide has well and truly turned and South West regional LMCs are now braced for NHS SBS coming in in most areas.'

‘There has been no evaluation of NHS SBS versus the various existing local services that are cherished, are responsive, and do not leave us with worries over delayed payments and confusion. This has been introduced by stealth and on costing grounds rather than quality of service.'

NHS Somerset told Pulse it was bucking the trend and had rejected the option of NHS SBS in favour of local services. An NHS Somerset spokesperson said: 'This proposal was considered by the Board of NHS Somerset and its Professional Executive Committee a few months ago and rejected on the basis that the local service was already being delivered to a high quality.'

The news comes as Worcestershire LMC said it was preparing to fight pressure to impose SBS into their area ‘against our will'.

A statement in the LMC newsletter read: ‘The LMC has been very alarmed to hear reports that centrally this organisation is being encouraged to take over back room services from PCTs. We have already had discussions about this and will be watching very closely for any pressure from the centre to roll this out against our will.'

A spokesperson for NHS South West said: ‘We understand that these proposals are still being considered by PCTs across the South West and that final decisions have yet to be taken.'

An NHS SBS spokesperson said: 'At present, a final decision has not been reached with regard to family health services in the southwest. As such, NHS SBS is unable to provide further comment at this time.'