GP support services to be outsourced in £40m cost cutting plan

NHS England has confirmed the sell-off of all primary care back office operations in a bid to cut the cost of providing the service by £40m.

Funding: Services that administer GP payments will be outsourced
Funding: Services that administer GP payments will be outsourced

An open procurement process was announced on 11 July for primary care support services (PCS), which provide GP payments and patient records services, following a consultation.

Plans to cut funding by 40% and outsource the service were first revealed by GP in September 2013.

In November last year, NHS England said the cuts could see the number of regional PCS offices slashed from 37 to 12.

Currently around 30% of NHS England area teams have in-house staff to administer the payments, while others contract the service out to external providers.

GP leaders have warned that further outsourcing and cuts could cause further payment chaos for practices.

Birmingham LMC executive secretary and chairman of the GPC contracts subcommittee, Dr Robert Morley, warned previously that the process could mean the loss of local experience.

‘I can foresee there will be no-one left from the days preceding the PCTs,' he said. ‘I can imagine problems with payments to practices that could make what we’ve experienced over the past 12 months seem a drop in the ocean.'

At NHS England’s May board meeting, members were presented with three options: an in-house option for those areas not already outsourced; an option to outsource all services to SSCL, a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Steria which could have seen parts of the operation moved to India; or an open procurement.

NHS England’s national director for transformation and corporate operations Karen Wheeler said: ‘NHS England is committed to cutting administrative costs for all services, and these changes will benefit patients and the taxpayer by freeing up more money for care.

‘We have a skilled and committed set of staff delivering these services already and have put considerable effort into designing a viable in-house solution. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to design a solution which made the required level of efficiencies. We know this is a difficult time for PCS staff and we are committed to ensuring that any transfer process for relevant staff is a smooth as possible.’

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