LMCs urged to battle PCOs' service cuts

A PCT has decided to reinstate funding for translators in GP practices because it feared legal costs would wipe out potential savings.

GP revealed that Brent PCT in north-west London planned to withdraw £150,000-a-year funding for interpreters and translators in practices earlier this year (GP, 2 March 2007).

Brent PCT covers one of the most ethnically diverse parts of England where over 100 languages are spoken.

Londonwide LMCs took up the case and on legal advice warned that practices that funded translation services previously paid for by primary care organisations (PCOs) weakened the argument that it was non-core work (GP, 13 April).

Earlier this month, GP revealed that Brent PCT had reversed its decision.

A PCT statement said: ‘Following further legal advice which conflicts with that of the GPs and their representatives, it became clear that the only resolution would be a costly court case which would wipe out the potential savings, which were only originally planned for one year.

‘Therefore both sides felt that re-instatement was the most sensible option.’

GPC negotiator Dr Stewart Drage, joint chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘It
was a fairly clear-cut case.

‘My advice to LMCs is to define which areas you are going to make a fuss about and that you do the groundwork to make sure practices are on board and that you have good arguments.

‘You have to have discussions with the PCO about what it might lose if it carries on with a decision that leads to the withdrawal of a key service.’

Dr Drage said cash-strapped PCOs were less likely to stand up to GPs because they feared the financial implications of legal action at a time when they were trying to tackle deficits.

He said other LMCs could benefit from this factor, but he added: ‘Our attempts to persuade it of the wider benefits of keeping GPs on side was almost a more important argument than the legal wrangle.’

Brent is not the only area to encounter problems. Cambridgeshire PCT withdrew support for face-to-face interpreters in January 2007 but backtracked on a similar threat to telephone and signing services.

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