Private providers set to target deprived areas

Primary care in deprived areas will be opened up to competition from the private and voluntary sectors because the DoH says traditional GP practices are difficult to recruit to these areas.

A DoH-led tendering scheme called Fairness in Primary Care will initially target support at areas where GP numbers are low.

It will then extend to areas where patient satisfaction is poor, closed lists are widespread and services are shown to be unresponsive.

The DoH is supporting six under-served PCTs to procure services from a range of providers under APMS. These pilots are in Liverpool, Lancashire, Plymouth, Yorkshire and two in London.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt said: 'Traditional practices led by GPs are difficult to recruit into these areas. With new providers there are better opportunities to get what we need.'

She added that the DoH was 'committed to narrowing if not eliminating the gap' between deprived and affluent areas.

The DoH will manage the procurement process on behalf of PCTs, drawing up a shortlist of accredited suppliers. PCTs will retain control over contracts.

The DoH will also establish a fund from April 2007 to provide advice to social entrepreneurs who want to develop new models to deliver health and social care services.

NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said: 'The fear remains that big companies will make bids to undercut other providers.'

NAPC chairman Dr James Kingsland said GPs should not fear private sector competition. 'Patients want continuity and familiar quality services - that is what traditional GPs offer.'


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