Health commissioning groups preparing to put certain medical services out to tender

GPs set to lose out on income as private companies like Bupa and Alliance look to move in

Health Reporter

Some GP surgeries could lose up 15 per cent of their income from April, as health commissioning groups prepare put minor surgery and other services out to private tender.

Private health companies such as Bupa and Alliance told the general practice magazine Pulse that they were interested in taking on contracts, which must now be opened up to the market under NHS competition rules.

Nine out of 48 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) surveyed by the magazine said they plan to put their ‘local enhanced services’, or LESs, out to tender. The list of services, which include minor surgical procedures, clinics for certain conditions, and breathing tests for asthma sufferers, were previously carried out by GP surgeries and paid for in their NHS contracts, but must now be put out to tender to ‘Any Qualified Provider’, unless CCGs can prove a service can only be offered by a single provider.

Overall, CCGs reported that contracts worth just over £2m are to be put out to tender, but many CCGs did not respond to requests for information and others are yet to declare their intentions. Extrapolated across England, the current figures suggest £18.6m worth of contracts could be opened up to the market. 

In one area, Stockport, CCGs are placing 40 per cent of LESs out to tender, potentially costing local GP surgeries £383,200.

Dr David Gilbert, chair of the Stockport Local Medical Committee, told Pulse: “The competition regulations mean our CCG is worried that they are having to put services out to tender, despite wanting to keep the money in general practice. Obviously we’re not happy that the CCG is in this position, and it is money potentially lost to general practice in Stockport.”

However, many CCGs said they planned to keep LES services at GP surgeries.

The magazine’s editor, Steve Nowottny, said that the process would open up “a new front in private sector involvement in the NHS.”

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