The plans would see hospital trusts compete with GPs and other providers to supply primary care services to PCTs.
But Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, said that foundation trusts would have a ‘vested interest' in referring patients to their own hospitals.
‘We know Bill Moyes (chairman of the foundation trust regulator Monitor) said that the primary reason for foundation trusts was to make a profit,' he said. ‘What better than to run primary services, and feed the beast of secondary care, making even more profit?'
The plan was proposed by prime minister Gordon Brown in last week's speech on health policy.
He promised to ‘increase the freedoms and autonomy of our local NHS' by ‘giving hospital clinicians and GPs stronger incentives to work together and allowing foundation trusts the freedom to provide primary care services'.
Vertical integration such as this is permissible under the NHS Operating Framework for 2008/9, published last month. But the framework specifies that it should only happen where there are ‘robust and proportionate safeguards and with the express agreement of the DoH'.
It also orders parties to the contract to declare conflicts of interest, and says clinicians must tell patients if they have a financial interest in a referral.
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