PCTs hand GP services to other providers

PCTs are increasingly handing GP services to other providers, with pharmacies given almost twice as many local enhanced service (LES) contracts as five years ago, data show.

Contracts for smoking cessation were transferred to pharmacists (Photograph: SPL)

The GPC said practices were now at greater risk of having their services cherry-picked by other providers, which could affect efforts to integrate services and may damage care.

The number of LESs provided by community pharmacies rose by 83% in the five years to 2010/11, according to an NHS Information Centre report. The review also found there had been a rise of 4.9% in 2010/11 alone.

In contrast, general practice enhanced services are being cut back. In 2010/11, practice earnings from LES contracts fell by 5.5%, according to figures released in October.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'PCTs have been increasingly looking to other providers of services.

'Practices should be aware of the greater risk in the future, under the any qualified provider policy that services currently delivered by practices could be cherry picked, which could lead to a more fragmented and potentially less safe service to patients.'

PCTs awarded 30,962 LESs to community pharmacies in 2010/11, compared with 16,920 in 2005/6, the documents show. Contracts for smoking cessation, medication reviews and screening services were among those which grew the most over the five years.

Cuts to LES contracts in general practice were partly blamed for the stagnation seen in UK practice earnings in 2010/11. This saw investment in general practice rise just 0.4% across the UK.

A GP investigation recently revealed how cuts to enhanced services across England will wipe out slim uplifts to GP contract funding agreed for 2011/12 (GP, 21 October).

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