Firms beating GPs in race for contracts to run Darzi centres

Private firms are narrowly winning the race for contracts to run Darzi centres, the DoH has admitted, despite earlier claims that GPs were ahead.

Alan Johnson Credit:Haymarket Medical/Guzelian

National director of the GP access programme for England Dr Mike Warburton told GP that private firms make up 40% of shortlisted bidders, compared with 36% from GPs. A further 13% consist of consortia of GPs and private providers.

Dr Warburton said the 'vast majority' of GP-led health centre contracts are on track to be signed by early January, and operational by the end of March. 'Outside London I'm only aware of one or two slipping beyond that target,' he said.

He added that commercial enthusiasm for the contracts remains undented. ‘The credit crunch hasn't really affected this procurement,’ he said.

Bidders had not been pulling out once they were shortlisted, he said.

Dr Warburton was speaking as health secretary Alan Johnson opened the first of the new health centres, in Bradford.

The Hillside Bridge Health Centre is run by Local Care Direct, a social enterprise that provides out-of-hours care, already manages one local practice, and is shortlisted for seven others around West Yorkshire.

The centre, based on an existing PCT-run practice, expects to grow its patient list from 2,500 to 6,000 over five years. It will also provide walk-in services and bookable appointments for patients registered at other practices.

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