'Supermarkets have no plans to run surgeries'

Reports that private companies want to provide alternative primary care services to improve GP access are inaccurate, according to the GPC.

Large private companies' interest in the NHS is only to rent space to health centres, said GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman. Media reports that private companies would be competing with or taking over surgeries were inaccurate, he claimed.

Dr Buckman said: 'They are just utilising spare floorspace. They are not interested in being rivals. There is a commercial benefit for them for having such practices. For GPs it is a good way to improve access or overcome problems such as car parking.'

The proposals seemed reasonable and in no way offered a rival service, Dr Buckman said. Current in-store practices are branch surgeries with GMS contracts.

Dr Buckman accused the government of launching a 'hate campaign' against GPs about access through the media.

He said the government had not contacted him about the 'access issues' recently reported.

'No one has told me or suggested to me there is a problem,' he said.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'The public would not benefit from commercial companies offering any rival service. The government is misguided if it thinks they can provide equivalent levels of care.'

A Tesco spokesman said: 'We support the government's aim to make healthcare more accessible for people and have provided health centres alongside some of our stores.

'We have no plans to offer GP surgeries in store, but we will look at ways we can offer health services to our customers.'

Dr Buckman cited Tesco, Asda and Morrisons as all showing an interest in providing space for rental. He spoke of how parking problems could be eased if surgeries were put in supermarket car parks and the successful scheme within Boots in Poole, Dorset.

It functions as a 'branch' surgery of an established medical centre, with GP services available Monday to Friday, during working hours of the store.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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