Darzi centres will house franchised practices

LMC warns that Heart of Birmingham PCT's controversial reform plans could force an exodus of doctors.

Heart of Birmingham PCT believes 'Darzi plan' health centres will operate within its controversial 'franchise' model.

However, LMC leaders believe the plans will worsen the expected staffing problems in Heart of Birmingham PCT where many GPs are approaching retirement age.

Birmingham LMC medical secretary Dr Charles Zuckerman said the PCT is underprepared to develop the centres within its target of 15 months.

A report by the PCT's professional executive committee says that the specification of the three new health centres, recommended by health minister Lord Ara Darzi to under-doctored areas, 'accords with that being developed for the franchise model'.

A spokeswoman confirmed the trust was looking at how the schemes will work together.

GP reported how the PCT was planning to replace 76 small or single-handed practices with 24 larger, franchised units with the intention of attracting young GPs to the area late last year (PCT plans to franchise GPs, GP, 16 November).

The franchised centres will operate to a standard contract setting out everything from staff uniforms to opening hours.

Dr Zuckerman said the only jobs available would be salaried positions under companies with APMS contracts.

'If GPs are forced into new premises many will leave for leafier areas. It will be difficult to find any GPs over 50 soon,' he said. 'I can't see how it will improve the situation and attract new GPs. None of the regulations apply, you'll have no access to an NHS pension, and your salary will be more like £30-40,000.'

Dr Zuckerman was critical of the PCT: 'It couldn't answer what GPs will be expected to do above their current contracts, or what contracts they will be.'

Dr Sandy Bradbrook, chief executive of Heart of Birmingham Teaching PCT, said consultation would take place over the coming months and 'a very useful meeting' had been held with 'dozens of GPs'.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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