GP payment services may be outsourced nationally

GP payment services for the whole of England could be handed to a single outsourced company following an NHS England bid to slash £40m from primary care support (PCS) services, it has emerged.

GP payments could be organised nationally
GP payments could be organised nationally

NHS England is considering proposals to provide PCS services, also known as family health services, nationally after the body launched a consultation on plans to cut 40% of the £100m budget.

The body said in November that it would seek the savings and could reduce the number of regional PCS offices from 37 to 12.

Consultation with practices on the effects of the changes began in January, but GP leaders have warned the cuts could create more payment chaos.

The move was revealed in papers released ahead of a board meeting on Thursday. These showed that NHS England is considering an offer by an outsourcing firm to provide the services nationally.

The board has ordered a full assessment of the bid by Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL) ‘to determine whether it could deliver safe efficient PCS services’.

SSCL is a joint venture firm 25% owned by the government and 75% by Steria Limited.

Steria also owns 50% of NHS Shared Business Services, which currently provides PCS services for some of the 30% of NHS England area teams that already outsource them.

The board papers added: ‘Meanwhile, the current consultation on the regional options is continuing to ensure that staff, trade unions and our partners can give their views and help shape the future of these services.'

When consultations began in January, Birmingham LMC's executive secretary, Dr Robert Morley, said he feared the consultation was a ‘cosmetic exercise’. ‘I recommend to practices that they do respond robustly to it, but it’s pretty clear these savings are going to be found regardless and it’s going to put a lot more hassle and bureaucracy on practices and support staff who are already groaning under the strain.'

Dr Morley warned that the cuts would mean local, experienced staff would be lost. ‘I can foresee there will be no one left from the days preceding the PCTs,' he said. ‘I can imagine problems with payments to practices that could make what we’ve experienced over the past 12 months seem a drop in the ocean.’

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