Darzi centres might not have GP cover at all times

Some GP-led health centres could be run without a GP on site at all times, GP can reveal.

Providers bidding to run centres have proposed staff models heavily dependent on nurses.

GPs in Suffolk told GP they had been asked to provide daily on-call cover so a GP-led health centre could operate with no GPs on site for part of the day.

One group which has bid for services reported having to limit GP numbers in their proposals to have a chance of winning. GPC member Dr Fay Wilson, whose out-of-hours co-op BADGER recently won a contract to run a GP-led health centre in Stoke with the private provider Harmoni, hinted that their staff mix would rely heavily on nurses.

'It's not a very big centre, and on previous bids we were told we were a bit "doctor heavy", so that gives some impression of the way were going,' Dr Wilson said.

Some GPs have reported that the cash on offer to run GP-led health centres was too little to offer strong GP cover. Northumberland LMC medical secretary Dr Jane Lothian told GP the budget for GP-led health centres in the North East 'would barely cover one GP on each site'.

However, other PCTs have rejected bids expressly because they appeared to contain too little GP cover.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from Somerset PCT show that, although a bid from Harmoni was the cheapest, the PCT rejected it because there was 'no assurance a GP would be on site all week', and because it 'had the lowest level of general practitioner input in the first year' of all the bids.

Both The Practice PLC, contracted to run the GP-led health centre in Suffolk, and Harmoni have denied planning to operate clinics without GPs on site.

A spokesman for Harmoni said it would follow its contractual obligation to have at least one GP at all times.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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