Foundation trust can acquire GP practice, regulators rule

A foundation trust's acquisition of a practice in Sunderland will not create conflicts of interest, the Cooperation and Competition Panel (CCP) has ruled.

The integrated care organisation (ICO) pilot will see City Hospitals Sunderland acquire the Church View medical practice to create a ‘vertically integrated’ healthcare system.

Organisations including the NHS Alliance have expressed concern that such a merger would represent ‘market capture’ - effectively enabling the foundation trust to generate cash by referring to itself.

But the CCP has said that the proposed merger will not breach current competition rules.

In his statement, director Andrew Taylor admitted there was a ‘risk... that those GPs will have an incentive to refer patients to their employing hospital.’

But he said he had been reassured by the measures the trust had taken to prevent conflicts of interest, and by the large number of alternative practices nearby.

‘The proposed merger will not impose any significant costs on patients or taxpayers by reducing the scope for patient choice or competition,’ he concluded, ‘and will allow the benefits that might be realised from an ICO to be explored.’

* Should foundation trusts be allowed to run practices?


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