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Darzi centre gets stay of execution after PCT found in breach of competition rules

An under threat Darzi centre has been given a stay of execution, after the NHS competition watchdog ruled that PCT bosses breached conflict of interest rules by enlisting GPs with ‘vested interests' -  including the local CCG chair - to lead a consultation on the centre's possible closure.

The Cooperation and Competition Panel ruled that NHS Peterborough's consultation recommending the closure of the Alma Road surgery fell foul of conflict of interest rules.

The CCP ruled that the PCT had acted inappropriately by involving two GPs with links to surgeries and urgent care services that could benefit from the centre's closure to act as ‘lead clinicians' for the consultation.

The case was brought after 3 Well Medical, the GP-led limited company that runs the Darzi centre, alleged that Dr Mike Caskey, chair of NHS Peterborough's GP commissioning committee and Dr Harshad Mistry, NHS Peterborough's urgent care commissioning lead, had ‘vested financial interests in the closure of Alma Road', as their own local practices could benefit from the change.

The CCP report stated: ‘The commissioner's actions were not consistent with the Principles and Rules [of competition] because of the involvement of two lead clinicians in the commissioner's consultation process that had associations with primary and/or urgent care providers that would be directly affected by and might gain from the consultation process.'

But the CCP said NHS Peterborough ‘did not appear to discriminate' against Alma Road, and found it's consultation did not restrict patient choice.

The watchdog is set to recommend to health secretary Andrew Lansley that an independent body of clinicians review the consultation responses. Mr Lansley will decide how to act on the CCP's advice in mid-February at the earliest.

Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive at NHS Peterborough and NHS Cambridgeshire said the PCT ‘supported' the CCP's recommendation that the consultation was reviewed by independent clinicians.

He said: ‘We have reflected on the processes and feel that we managed potential conflicts of interest appropriately, but accept that the CCP has recommended we work further to engage independent clinicians outside the Peterborough area to provide further assurance.'

‘It is important to state that we do not believe that there has been any actual conflict of interest and that the clinicians we involved in answering questions from the public have not profited in any way from this process and no evidence was found to the contrary. The PCT drew on their expertise as local clinicians in helping explain how systems work. They were not involved in developing the proposals, nor would they have been involved in making final decisions about the consultation.'