GPs voice concerns over outsourcing of primary care support

GP leaders have warned of 'grave concerns' over outsourcing of primary care support services as NHS workers' union Unison slammed a decision to keep the names of bidders secret.

Dr Richard Vautrey: outsourcing warning (Photo: Solent)

The union said NHS England’s decision to keep details of a deal that could be worth £1bn over the next decade secret and not to allow unions to submit views was disrespectful to primary care support staff.

As first revealed by GP in December 2013, NHS England is slashing funding by 40% to primary care support (PCS) services, formerly known as family health services, which administer GP payments and patient records, and putting the service out to tender.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the committee had ‘grave concerns’ over the process.

Impact on practices

‘This is something we've repeated raised directly with NHS England,' he said. ‘Many practices have had big problems with the basic service that has been provided to them since the creation of NHS England and although some of the initial problems have been resolved there is a real fear that the situation could get worse again rather than better as costs are cut with the service being privatised.’

GP revealed this week that practices are continuing to face confusion and delays over payments for services.

Unison said firms that attended a bidders day for the contract included arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, Capita, KPMG and US law firm DLA Piper as well as G4S and Serco, companies currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging on public sector contracts.

Last week the House of Commons public accounts committee expressed concerns that government departments were still awarding contracts to G4S and Serco despite Whitehall giving ‘the impression’ the firms were barred pending review.

Unison has said the contract, one of the biggest ever awarded in the NHS, was ‘simply a process of privatisation’.

Cosmetic exercise

In January one LMC leader told GP he feared NHS England’s consultation with practices was a ‘cosmetic exercise’ and the privatisation and cuts would go ahead regardless bringing fresh chaos to practices.

Unison health official Nick Bradley, in a letter to NHS England, said: ‘It is disappointing and disrespectful to staff we represent in primary care service that we are not able to submit any views at the stage where NHS England is considering its shortlist.

‘It does appear that NHS England are moving much too fast and without due respect to staff and stakeholders to move forward without both taking time and seeking views.

‘I do not understand why it is not possible for both the trade union and the staff to be told which companies have submitted applications.

‘To hide this information adds to our serious concerns about a process in which a massive arms manufacturer and a company linked to a sitting member of parliament in the government have both expressed an interest by attending a bidder day earlier this year.

He added: ‘The secrecy around this contract is extraordinary. This is a dangerous experiment and it beggars belief that NHS England would award such a huge contract to a private company. Everything about the contract is wrong from its nature, secrecy and the rushed timescale.’

NHS England has yet to respond to a request for comment.

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