NHS chiefs plan to speed up privatisation in primary care

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: News stories, Providers | Tags: , , , , , |

Pulse | By Gareth Iacobucci | 9 March 2009

PCTs are set to dramatically ramp up efforts to entice the private sector into primary care after failing to meet Government targets to increase competition.

A series of detailed SHA assessments of PCTs commissioning skills found they had not gone far enough to open up the primary care market.

Reports carried out under the Government’s World Class Commissioning scheme show even trusts that have embraced APMS have failed to achieve above average scores, which is set to lead to a renewed drive to meet future targets.

The NHS Confederation said it expected many PCT-run surgeries to be farmed out to APMS, as trusts look to entice private providers to run GP services.

The reports, many of which marked PCTs down from their self-assessments, offer detailed advice on how trusts can stimulate the market by next year’s assessment.

NHS Berkshire West was marked down on two of the three categories for stimulating the market, and advised to ‘encompass a wider range of services provider’.

NHS Suffolk, which scored level one, the lowest score, on all aspects of stimulating the market was advised to ‘continue building on its active approach to tendering’.

Even Camden PCT, which handed three practices to US healthcare giant UnitedHealth last year, was marked down to level one on all three categories for stimulating the market.

David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCT Network, said it was unsurprising to see PCTs struggling as the market was ‘very new for the NHS’.

He said: ‘[The indicator] is asking, “Are there concerns about quality, and are there alternative providers who could add something?”. If there are, how do you encourage them to participate?’

Mr Stout said while he didn’t necessarily envisage an immediate expansion of APMS, he did expect many PCT-run services and any new contracts to be tendered.

He said: ‘Where APMS will be used is where new services will be commissioned. From a competition point of view, you’d be hard pressed not to use APMS.’

But Dr Chaand Nagpaul, GPC negotiator with responsibility for commissioning, said the drive to increase competition had ‘nothing to do with improving healthcare’.

‘This highlights how PCTs can be diverted into pursuing meaningless political targets rather than supporting and developing existing GP practices.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘PCTs are expected to stimulate and shape the market including a number of providers from voluntary, NHS, private, local government sectors and others.’

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