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GPs set up company to prevent ‘McDonald’s-style’ practices

By Christian Duffin

An LMC is taking the extraordinary step of setting up a company to run out-of-contract practices on a short term basis – to block private sector companies stepping in.

Essex LMCs expect to finalise plans and register with Companies House this week.

The company, which as yet remains unnamed, would have six GP directors offering a service to PCTs of stabilising small practices for six months after a contract ends. This might be because of a doctor's illness or death, retirement, emigration or poor performance.

Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘I believe we're the first LMC to formally attempt this. It probably means we are either very brainy or crazy.'

Currently, some PCTs bring in private providers temporarily when practices are out of contract, but this gives these providers an unfair advantage if they apply when the contract is later tendered, said Dr Balmer.

‘I don't want McDonald's-style practices. We want the practice to stay within the NHS, not become something corporate. The advantage is that we are independent, although we will not be coming in and running the practice.'

Fees for lawyers, accountants and set up charges amount to less than £5,000, funded by ‘external sources', said Dr Balmer. He said if PCTs drag their heels in finding permanent contractors then the company will give notice of pulling out.

Dr Balmer said North East Essex PCT had responded favourably to the plans, although a PCT spokesperson said: ‘We will be meeting on March 17 to discuss the issue.'

NHS South West Essex recently announced plans to farm out ten GP practices as APMS tenders.

Essex LMCs chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said the LMC was either 'very brainy or crazy.'