Secrecy causing headache on polyclinics

Key documents on evaluating APMS bids held back by the government leaving practices disadvantaged.

PCTs do not have the tools they need to commission polyclinics, because the DoH has refused to release key tender documents.

The PCT Procurement Framework, guidance on procuring the new Darzi centres, has been available online for months.

Yet documents which offer guidance to PCTs on how bids should be evaluated following the 'invitation to tender' stage remain unavailable.

Dr Richard Halvorsen, one of the London GPs who last year made an unsuccessful bid for an APMS practice in Camden, said the documents should be released so that bidders know how they are being judged.

He added that the lack of documentation added to fears the government was 'rushing into polyclinics in a big way'.

A DoH spokeswoman said that the government was holding the documents back to avoid 'any potential conflicts of interest' while other PCTs procure new practices for under-doctored areas under the Fairness in Primary Care programme.

She added that PCTs were unlikely to need the documents before June.

PCTs procuring APMS practices outside either programme, such as Tower Hamlets and Camden, have to make do without DoH guidance.

These trusts are expected to develop their own systems to evaluate bids.

GPs have complained that it is often unclear what PCTs are looking for.

Mark Berry, a lawyer with firm Norton Rose, cited a client who lost six bids in a row. 'The criteria weren't clear, and they weren't able to make adjustments from one bid to another to get to a winning position,' he said.

A recent NHS Alliance re-port, In Sickness and In Health, argued that tender processes were so complex, they 'make it impossible for practices to compete.

PCT Procurement Framework

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