PCT closes APMS loophole to stop firms 'trading primary care'

A PCT cluster has closed a loophole in its APMS contracts by adding a clause to prevent primary care from becoming a 'commodity traded in the private market'.

Waiting room: Patients at Camden practice forced to move
Waiting room: Patients at Camden practice forced to move

NHS North Central London cluster, which runs five PCTs, introduced the clause after one company transferred a contract for a Camden practice to another provider. The practice later closed, forcing its 4,700 patients to register elsewhere.

The NHS Commissioning Board, whose local area teams will hold GP contracts in England from April, said it had no plans to issue guidance that all APMS contracts should include a similar clause. The PCT, meanwhile, has refused to disclose the wording of the clause because of commercial confidentiality.

In June, Camden Council’s Health Scrutiny Panel of Enquiry report into the closure of the Camden Road practice called upon the NHSCB to take ‘prompt action’ to prevent a repeat of the incident. The panel's report said: ‘In our view, primary care by GPs should not be a commodity traded in the private market.’

The council report warned that APMS contracts contained a 'serious loophole' that had allowed one private provider to transfer the contract to another. In September, however, the NHSCB denied there was a loophole.

This week an NHSCB spokesman said: ‘In order to allow commissioners to tailor services to best meet the needs of their populations APMS contracts are drawn up locally, agreed between the local commissioner and each individual provider. While the NHSCB provides guidance to commissioners, the ongoing management of APMS contracts is dealt with locally.’

A spokeswoman for the NHS North Central London cluster said: ‘Following legal advice, NHS North Central London now includes a clause in APMS contracts to be let by PCTs in the cluster, which aims to prevent the contractual issue that arose occurring again.’

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