PCTs must offer multi-practice contracts

Tendering 'Bigger is better' to attract private firms, says manager.

PCTs must offer larger contracts involving groups of practices to attract private sector providers, according to the chairman of London PCTs' commercial board.

Sarah Crowther, also chief executive of Harrow PCT in north London, said contracts involving many practices and associated services would be less risky for potential providers.

Discussing the use of private providers at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool, Ms Crowther encouraged PCT chief executives to have 'informal chats' with private firms about contracts before tender.

'We don't think enough in the NHS about the size of the deal we need to be putting out to make it more commercially attractive to the independent sector,' she said.

'From the discussion I have had with the private sector it would like fewer procurements because they are long, protracted things that take a lot of effort.'

Ms Crowther said contracts for any similar health centres should be bundled together in groups. 'If we don't make contracts bigger we will not be able to benefit from all the players in the market.'

Dr Mark Hunt, managing director of Care UK, which has secured at least 13 contracts for GP-led health centres, echoed the call to NHS managers: 'If you start small you will not get the capacity you need from the independent sector.'

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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