Midlands GPs warn of rise in private providers

Private providers Birmingham GPs say cash given to private firms could be better spent on existing practices.

LMC leaders in Birmingham have hit out at the growth of private companies moving into GP services in the area.

The concerns come after the launch of two initiatives by a GP-led community interest company (CIC) in association with US health provider Aetna.

Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said the LMC had not been consulted over the plans, which he said could fragment care.

'Yet again the NHS is happy to fall over itself to throw money at private sector shareholders on gimmicky "partnerships" without any evidence of benefit. Meanwhile, tried and tested general practice is increasingly starved of the resources it needs,' he said.

However, local GP Dr Niti Pall, who chairs the CIC involved, Pathfinder Healthcare Developments, said pilots of the initiatives had been successful because they complemented current GP practices.

She said a phone management system for patients with long-term conditions had uncovered patients who had been missed, such as a group of children with poorly controlled asthma who regularly ended up in hospital.

'We had 70 per cent uptake among our patients because they trust their GP and we are recommending they use it.'

Dr Pall said her practice on its own could never have developed the systems.

'We do not have the thinking time, the knowledge or the technical background. We were able to use Aetna's experience and then tailor it to the UK.'

Dr Jim Cowan, medical director at Aetna, said he felt the system could only operate successfully in the UK with absolute support from GPs.

However, Rita Symons, director of commissioning for NHS South Birmingham said, following evaluation, she was keen to see if it could be rolled out across the area by community matrons.


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