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Competition watchdog in test case to decide future of Darzi centre

A Darzi centre provider has referred its PCT to the NHS's competition watchdog and accused GPs of acting with ‘vested interests' in trying to engineer its closure.

It comes as independent sector leaders accused PCTs of unfairly targeting APMS contracts as an easy option for cost savings.

But GPs said the centre was ‘duplicating care' and sucking up funding at a time when their own surgeries were being placed under threat by a lack of investment.   

The Competition and Cooperation Panel (CCP) is investigating claims from 3Well Medical, a limited company set up by NHS GPs, that NHS Peterborough has breached six competition rules with a ‘flawed' and ‘compromised' consultation that recommends closing 3Well Medical's Alma Road Primary Care Centre.

In a detailed submission to the CCP, 3Well Medical alleges NHS Peterborough's consultation was driven by local clinicians with ‘vested financial interests in the closure' of Alma Road'.

The submission claims closing the centre would damage patient care, restrict patient choice and cost the NHS more in the long-term.

Dr Rupert Bankart, medical director of 3Well Medical and a GP in Peterborough, said: ‘The easiest thing for us to do would be to walk away from this.'

‘But our concern is how it will impact our patients and how it could affect services like us across the whole of the UK. We need to stick to our guns.'

David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, told Pulse: ‘PCTs are increasingly going for the easiest facilities to close, rather than necessarily the right ones because they can prove bigger challenges in terms of the contracts, the law, the local politics.'

But in a separate submission to the CCP, Dr Steve Watson, a GP at the nearby Lincoln Road surgery in Peterborough, said: ‘We feel it is clear that Alma Road is a duplication of services available elsewhere.'

An NHS Peterborough spokesperson defended the consultation process: ‘NHS Peterborough has strictly adhered to its governance procedures with regards to potential conflicts of interest.'

The CCP will complete its Phase 1 investigation by the 14th November. If deemed necessary, a second phase investigation will be completed by March 2012.