PCT's franchise plans for practices

Plans forcing GPs into large, franchised health centres have been backed by a PCT.

Dr Fay Wilson
Heart of Birmingham PCT aims to move 76 mostly single-handed practices into 24 new health centres in competition with private firms.

Birmingham LMC chairman Dr Robert Morley said it was the ‘most frightening document I’ve ever read’.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘Franchising will provide the lowest common denominator of healthcare.’

GPs will have preferred provider status but will be competing against the private sector for franchises.

The PCT’s report, ‘Corporate Franchise Strategy’, suggests GPs join together to form limited companies, or ‘assemble appropriate levels of resources’ and prove their business acumen.

It expresses clear interest in large companies like Virgin, Tesco and ASDA as competitors for the franchises, and says ‘these organisations are confident they can replicate the best aspects of the GP partnership’s relationship with its patients’.

The report proposes a ‘service specification’ to create consistent healthcare models across all the health centres. Franchisees will work under ‘strong brand identification’ to assure patients of quality.

The system is loosely based on fast-food business strategy and has been condemned by GPs as a step towards cheap corporate healthcare dubbed ‘McMedicine’. The report’s author, Sarb Basi, the PCT’s director of service development, said: ‘We can learn a lot from companies like McDonalds.’

Dr Sandy Bradbrook, chief executive of the Heart of Birmingham PCT, said he wanted to see the concept piloted within the next 12 months.

Former Heart of Birmingham GP Dr Fay Wilson said some practices on the PCT’s outskirts were asking how they could switch PCT.

Heart of Birmingham is seen as a ‘maverick’ PCT, she added. ‘We could see a while back that this was not the place to be. We moved to South Birmingham PCT, but some right in the middle have no choice.’

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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