Plan for privately-run PCTs is 'policy suicide'

Unhappiness as PCTs given deadline to improve performance or face management takeover by private firms.

DoH plans to allow private companies to run failing PCTs have been criticised by the BMA and patient groups.

The DoH plans to bring in management from trusts or the private sector if PCTs or hospitals continue to underperform.

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said there was no evidence that private companies would run a PCT any better than NHS managers.

Professor Wendy Savage, chairwoman of pressure group Keep Our NHS Public, said the plans amounted to privatisation and would further damage Labour, calling it 'a suicide policy'.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw insisted the plans did not amount to privatisation because the trusts' assets and staff would remain part of the NHS.

Tribal, the company that tried and failed to run Good Hope Hospital in Birmingham in 2003, said it would be 'delighted to work with GPs' after the announcement, although there was little interest from the other major health firms.

Previously, such schemes have been restricted to crisis-hit hospitals. From April 2009, the 10 PCTs currently rated as weak in both finance and services by the Healthcare Commission will have nine months to improve or face takeover proceedings.

Measures to identify failing PCTs will involve scorecards to monitor GP surgeries, the report says. GP reported last week that the scorecards measure clinician hours in surgery.

Dr Vautrey believes these measurements will paint an unfair picture of certain practices.

'It's about whether what you measure is a good measure of practice quality. Is it a useful test of how good a practice is?

'Creating tick box targets and league tables allows for those at the bottom to be taken over by private companies.'

DoH report

Weak PCTs

  • Cumbria.
  • Devon.
  • East and North Hertfordshire.
  • Leicestershire County and Rutland.
  • Luton.
  • Mid-Essex.
  • Sheffield.
  • Surrey.
  • West Hertfordshire.
  • Wiltshire.

Source: Healthcare Commission.

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