Sign of the future? Private health company asks elderly to leave

A private health company that boasts of being "honest, open and fair" is to de-register more than 100 elderly patients less than six months after signing them up a part of an NHS deal.

Under its terms, the practice took on 400 patients as part of a pilot scheme to offer "enhanced care home service". But the company, called The Practice and based in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, is now set to de-register 166 of the elderly patients because the pilot scheme is coming to an end, according to health magazine Pulse.

The pilot scheme meant The Practice was paid £85 per patient, rather than the £317 per patient the company had quoted when first bidding for the deal. The local Primary Care Trust is now working alongside the company in an effort to identify "a safe exit strategy" for the patients going to be de-registered. The 166 all live outside the local catchment areas of The Practice's services.

GPs in Buckinghamshire have raised concerns, both about the awarding of the pilot contract to the private company – GPs claimed they had not been given the chance to bid for the work – and to its decision to unburden itself of the patients. The system was overhauled in October and 10 GP practices signed up.

Dr Paul Roblin, chair of Buckinghamshire, Berks and Oxon Local Medical Committees, told Pulse: "The Practice took on patients outside its practice area because the care could be funded by pilot funding. Now it has implied all the patients it took on only six months ago need to be re-registered with local practices, having six months ago canvassed to register those very patients. We believe it has behaved badly in messing around this group of vulnerable patients. We want practices who are going to take back these patients to receive additional funding for them because otherwise they won't receive appropriate care."

A spokesperson for The Practice said: "The patients falling in the catchment area of our three surgeries are staying with them. It's only the ones outside the catchment area who the PCT is helping us to register elsewhere."

On its website, the company states: "Naturally, we strive to be caring, professional and thorough. But – more than that – we work to earn your trust and confidence and across all our dealings, we aim to be honest, open and fair."

It also claims to have developed "a strong culture" which "blends best practice health care management from the public sector with the strong financial control and stakeholder awareness of the private sector".

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