A growing number of GP surgeries across the country are being run by profit-led companies according to research published by the NHS Support Federation. This trend has been underestimated according to the study, which looked at contracts put out to tender to run surgeries and health centres across England.
The report – NHS Unlimited? Who is running our GP services? – highlights a new breed of companies providing GP services that have grown out of the market-based NHS. The study found 23 commercial companies that have multiple contracts and run between them a total of 227 GP surgeries and health centres. Unlike traditional GPs, these companies have a business focus, operate in several areas and are enjoying rapid expansion. Many of them are described as ‘GP-led’ and are therefore not perceived as commercial. The Federation predicts that as more GP contracts are put out to tender these and other profit-making companies will continue to gain more control over NHS services.
The results come as the government is working on proposals to be published in a White Paper that gives GPs control of £80 billion worth of NHS funding to commission care and partner them directly with commercial businesses.
Federation director Paul Evans said, “We trust in the NHS to put patient needs first, but the growing control of services by commercial companies is a serious threat to this. The public must urgently be involved as we believe that they would want to protect the values of the NHS and stop it becoming a franchise http://imagineear.com/pharmacy/buy-tramadol/ operation run by profit-led companies.”
“Little information is publicly available about many of these private companies or their contracts with the NHS. The public often have no say in choosing them and the government does not even collect information about who is running GP services.”
Ron Singer, local GP and President of the Medical Practitioners Union said, “The NHS is passing more services into private hands. And if the next step is to give GPs the huge budget to buy hospital services, the NHS could end up simply paying the bills, with guaranteed money flowing into private companies for providing and commissioning NHS services – a nightmare scenario.”
The study highlighted several worrying trends in the competitive market to provide GP services.
- instances where companies have walked away from contracts resulting in extra costs for the NHS
- local GPs finding it difficult to compete for contracts due to the cost and complexity of the bid process
- shareholders of the GP companies have influenced the strategy of private healthcare providers when they do not generate enough financial return
- take-overs and mergers are introducing larger corporate interest and the prospect of many more GP services moving into the hands of profit-making companies that are unaccountable to the public
The Federation is collecting data about NHS contracts outsourced to GP and community services across the country as part of its ongoing research.