Private firms 'play no part in practice franchise plan'

A PCT has ruled out private-sector involvement in its controversial plans to group GP services into a number of 'franchises'.

Heart of Birmingham PCT is looking to replace 76 small prac-tices in the area with 24 larger franchised units (GP, 16 November).

Mention was made in the PCT's corporate franchise strategy to the role firms, particularly well-known brands such as Asda, Virgin and Tesco, could play in primary care provision.

This was interpreted as leaving it open to private providers to run practices but now a PCT spokeswoman has ruled that option out, saying that 'only our local GPs will be considered. We are not looking anywhere else'.

Dr Charles Zuckerman, Birmingham LMC medical secretary, said: 'This just shows how ill thought through these plans really were.

'The majority of GPs in the Heart of Birmingham area are PMS practices and the PCT can alter that contract but a franchise system can only work if GPs form some kind of corporate body or private providers come in.

'If GPs don't want to do that and they are not interested in private providers then I'm not sure how this can work.'

Birmingham LMC is meeting Heart of Birmingham PCT's chief executive Dr Sandy Bradbrook this week to discuss the franchise plan further.

LMC chief executive Dr Robert Morley said that a key message it will convey is that 'GPs will not be bullied into something that is to the detriment of patient care. We will also tell the PCT that without GP support this cannot happen'.

Options for GPs in the area could be for PMS GPs to switch to GMS, 'which would mean a drop in income but could be a better option,' Dr Morley said.

It had been reported in the media that no private providers were interested in running practices in the area but Care UK has confirmed its interest.

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