GPs are given choice over future treatment centres

GPs in Cumbria and Lancashire are to make key decisions on the future of the areas' clinical assessment, treatment and support (CATS) services.

Last month the government scrapped a nationally agreed contract with the firm Netcare to run the scheme.

PCTs have decided to go on with the service and that GPs are the best placed to take care of commissioning.

This is despite health secretary Alan Johnson's decision last month that it would not provide value for money,

A key decision facing GPs will be whether the services should be run by a private firm or through the NHS.

Cumbria PCT chief executive Sue Page said: 'It was felt that GPs, through practice-based commissioning, had the knowledge to make such decisions surrounding CATS.'

Options being considered are commissioning from within the NHS, from GP practices or even Netcare, which could be offered a locally agreed contract.

Cumbria PCT professional executive committee chairman Dr Ian Mitchell was delighted by the move saying it gives GPs 'the opportunity to take a fresh look at what's best for the people of Cumbria'.

The CATS scheme is aimed at speeding up diagnosis and treatment and reducing the need for hospital visits.

However, CATS has been criticised nationally by the BMA, which is concerned that private sector involvement could undermine the relationship between GPs and patients, reduce patient choice and have a negative effect on secondary care funding.

The DoH decision also affected a nearby CATS scheme in Greater Manchester, where Netcare was one of two providers alongside Care UK.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester PCTs said Care UK will now be the sole provider, with contract and financial discussions set to be finalised by early next year.

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