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Flagship GP co-op loses contracts

By Christian Duffin

Exclusive: A flagship GP out-of-hours co-operative run by one of the country’s top GPs has lost several key contracts after being undercut by a private company.

BADGER, a consortium led by local doctors including the BMA’s Dr Fay Wilson, lost out to company Primecare in its attempt to have contracts with three local PCTs renewed.

News of the controversial move came in the same week that health secretary Andrew Lansley was forced to cave in to GP pressure and amend the health bill to stop GP consortia, hospitals and other providers from undercutting each other on price. In statements, the PCTs said price had been a factor, but so had quality.

BADGER’s loss of three of its contracts in the West Midlands, has disappointed Dr Wilson, its medical director and a GP in Birmingham, who warned GPs would increasingly lose out to private companies.

‘The PCTs have moved away from local GP provision to a big commercial provider on the grounds of price. If PCTs want to take on the services that can provide it the cheapest, I don’t think GPs could ever win,’ she said. ‘PCTs are spending less money on out-of-hours and I’m sure this trend is being repeated all over the country.’

BADGER only employs local GPs, and last month Pulse revealed an analysis by managers at NHS East of England – who were strongly criticised in the wake of the Daniel Ubani case – found adopting such an approach led to greater patient satisfaction and services.

The trusts involved defended their decisions to switch provider, and claimed local GPs would still be involved in the provision of out-of-hours care in the region. An NHS South of Birmingham spokesperson said: ‘Tenders were assessed across a range of quality and financial criteria.’

NHS Sandwell said: ‘Responses to the tender were assessed against both quality and price. Primecare scored highest marks on both.’

NHS Heart of Birmingham said Primecare demonstrated the ‘best combination of quality of service and value for money.’

Primecare did not wish to comment when contacted by Pulse.

Dr Fay Wilson