Private firms could take temporary control of practices at risk of closure

Private firms and community providers could be handed temporary control of practices at risk of closure under plans being drawn up by NHS England.

Deal could see approved providers take over struggling practices
Deal could see approved providers take over struggling practices

A framework agreement for interim primary care is being developed by the commissioning body’s South region to maintain GP services when a practice is at risk of closure.

A document from NHS England South said it is looking for experienced, CQC registered, GP providers, federations and multispeciality providers to to join the framework and be able to take over practices on a short-term basis.

Examples given include where a single-handed GP dies or retires at short notice, putting the future of the service at risk.

Purchasing GP services

The document said: ‘General medical services will be purchased from the suppliers on the framework using APMS contracts and, where necessary, after mini competitions between interested framework providers.’

Wessex LMCs’ chairman Dr Nigel Watson welcomed the plans. All LMCs, he said, were seeing practices that fear they could be forced to hand back their contract because of recruitment and retention problems. The framework, he said, was about finding an experienced organisation to ‘parachute in [and] stabilise the practice while their future is being sorted out’.

‘I think this is helping practices who might be in difficulty who rather than just, as historically, disperse the list, this is a way that practices which could be about to hand their contract back could be given a lifeline to sort out some of those issues with some help and support,’ said Dr Watson.

Dr Watson said he was aware of discussions with community providers and provider companies that may be interested.

‘It has to be somebody with a track record, or somewhere where they can prove to be flexible and do it on a sufficient scale to make it a viable model that it sustainable,' he said.

Dr Watson said his understanding was that the interim measures would not confer any advantage on the provider in any subsequent contract tender process. ‘You don't get extra points because you have run the contract for six months, so you are a shoe-in. [Although] clearly if you had run the contract you'd have an understanding,' he said.

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