Darzi centres get two-year income guarantee

Medical and business sources suggest privately-run centres will push GP practices to compete for patients.

Privately-run Darzi centres will have their income guaranteed for up to two years, while ministers push to scrap the MPIG.

Guidance posted on the DoH website noted that each new GP-led health centre would begin with no patient list. But it said that 'staffing and property costs are essentially fixed'.

While the centres build up their lists, it calls for 'some sort of income guarantee'. Without this, bidders 'will inevitably price the service costs higher to minimise their risks'.

By contrast, the Darzi review reiterated earlier this year DoH plans to scrap the MPIG.

The guidance on GP-led health centres has since been removed from the DoH website, but it is still available on the NHS Primary Care Contracting site.

It makes no reference to private providers - suggesting the guarantees will also be available to GP consortia.

But sources in both the medical and business lobbies said this confirms that the new centres will push practices to compete for patients.

'This clearly spells out that GP-led healthcare centres were intended to develop a market in primary care,' said deputy GPC chairman Dr Richard Vautrey.

He said that income guarantees meant the NHS had paid over the odds for independent sector treatment centres although some did only a quarter of the work that they were contracted for.

James Fothergill, head of health policy for the CBI, said that start-up funding would be needed to cover the new centres' building and staffing costs while they establish themselves. But PCTs should maintain incentives to take on more patients, he said.

He added that it was a 'bit rich for the BMA to complain about pump priming when their pump is primed through the MPIG'.

The DoH document stresses that the income guarantee should only cover 'a percentage of income ... during the transition period of, say, 12 to 24 months'.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

Darzi cash guarantee

  • Darzi centres to receive guaranteed income for 12 to 24 months.
  • DoH fears lack of guarantee would force contract prices up.
  • Guidance says staff and property costs are fixed irrespective of patient numbers.

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