GPs condemn £1.43 million Clinicenta contract

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BMA conference delegates – determined to look after our NHS
BMA conference delegates – determined to look after our NHS

LONDON GPs have complained that £1.43 million has been cut from their commissioning budgets for 2009/10 while £1.4 million is paid for a centrally set contract with private contractor Clinicenta, the British Medical Association house magazine, BMA News, has reported.

The doctors are also angry that NHS Islington will spend nearly £9m over five years on the Clinicenta contract in return for 3,737 day case procedures over five years.

GPs involved in Practice Based Commissioning (PBC) groups in Islington and Harrow contacted the BMA in response to its Look After Our NHS Campaign to highlight their concerns.

The GPs, who did not wish to be named, said they had no influence as commissioners over the acute elective procedures that would be provided, and they had no idea whether enough patients would benefit to ensure the deal was value for money.

One said: ‘We have just been told we are having this service and the money will come off the PBC budget.’

The doctors fear GPs will be under pressure to divert patients to Clinicenta to achieve value for money.

In March, the Dept of Health awarded Clinicenta the contract with NHS London to provide routine day care health services in north London.

The contract is for 50,000 patient contacts – including routine day surgery.

A letter from a Harrow GP to BMA Council Chairman Hamish Meldrum said: ‘We have been told this money is being top-sliced from our budgets.

‘If we don’t make use of the services, the money will be lost. . . This devalues the principles of commissioning and patient choice.’

The GP told BMA News: ‘It does not make sense that they have agreed a five-year contract . . . that increases in value every year when you do not know whether it is a good service or wanted by patients.’

A separate report in GPs’ magazine ‘Pulse’ features family doctors accusing a Primary Care Trust of unilaterally imposing funding cuts after it informed practices of plans to immediately suspend local enhanced services in a bid to balance the books.

In a letter to GPs, NHS Haringey announced it was to cut its investment to three core local enhanced services (LESs) from September due to financial pressures, and told practices it would not reimburse them for any LES work done after August 6.

Londonwide GP representatives claim that the decision to pull payments with no notice runs contrary to common law principles, and have accused the PCT of excluding them from all discussions on the issue.

Dr Tony Grewal, secretary and medical director for Haringey Local Medical Committee, told ‘Pulse’: ‘They haven’t looked to work with us in any way at all.’