Scores of practices link up to fight private competition

An LMC plans to form a county-wide GP provider company linking 76 practices to prevent primary care services being outsourced to private providers through the DH's any qualified provider (AQP) policy.

GP services: threat from private competition
GP services: threat from private competition

Somerset LMC is planning to set up the company to coordinate and submit bids on behalf of the 76 practices in the area to stop services being taken over by other providers.

The number of services that can be commissioned under AQP has expanded by more than a quarter in recent months and the LMC fears this will expand further to include services offered in GP practices.

The LMC’s newsletter reads: ‘We have to face the reality that a commercially competitive market for primary care services has now arrived.

‘It is becoming very clear that we need to organise on a larger scale.

'When competing against Virgin or Care UK any practice is going to be playing uphill.

‘The LMC believes such a company should be structured so that it can co-ordinate and submit bids on behalf of practices, localities and federations as well as in its own right, and it should actively seek to work co-operatively with other local providers – both GP-owned and others – to protect the interests of member practices and to maintain integrated local NHS services that are not at the whim of external providers.

'As well as its protective function the company will be prepared to bid for further contracts for intermediate and community based services
where these fit well with primary care.'

LMC executive manager Jill Hellens said there was strong support from practices for the company. The plans could still go ahead even if not all 76 local practices sign up, she said. A meeting is being held by the LMC on 26 September to outline the options.

The newsletter reads: ‘We have known for some time that from April 2014 there is likely to be a progressive shift away from enhanced services to the use of NHS standard contracts as part of the government’s declared intention to introduce a wider market for NHS services and encourage new providers.

‘The reality is that from next spring it is possible that other organisations will start to submit AQP bids to do work that until now has been part of general practice.

‘Initially it will be the enhanced services that are now with the public health directorate of the county council that may be opened up, and although the sums are relatively small, this is money that practices can ill-afford to lose as income is progressively squeezed across the board.

'When the CCG and area team enhanced services are included in future, the potential losses begin to be critical, and although your core GMS or PMS contract is safe for the time being, the political pressure to change this is strong and growing.’

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