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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 June, 2005, 23:07 GMT 00:07 UK
Top hospitals may run GP centres
By Nick Triggle
BBC News health reporter

Image of a GP
Could GP surgeries be set up in hospitals in the future?
Foundation hospitals could start setting up their own GP practices in the future.

Experts believe it could see the development of super-surgeries within hospital grounds or practices being taken over by the elite NHS trusts.

Several foundation trusts are believed to be considering the move in the belief it will improve the link from GP to consultant.

But the idea has been criticised by local health bosses and doctors.

Dr Peter Holden, a member of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, said family doctors were not afraid of competition, but warned they would not be operating on a "level playing field".

"Foundation hospitals are able to raise money and have much more freedom than the rest.

It could improve the service the patient receives, but it must also be remembered years of culture and history must be overcome
Professor Chris Ham, of the University of Birmingham

"If this is going to happen as things stand it would be unfair."

Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, which represents primary care trusts, said: "I think it would prove controversial and I would question whether it is the right move when we are wanting to move towards a primary care-led NHS.

"When health systems are based around secondary care (hospitals) you get many more operations and major interventions. I don't think patients would want that."

Foundation trusts are top-performing NHS hospitals which have been given freedom from government control and have the ability to raise their own funds.

Patients

Only 32 trusts have been given foundation status so far, although the government has said it envisages all trusts being given the special freedoms.

No trust has of yet set out any concrete proposals, but several are thought to be considering the move, believing it could lead to quicker diagnosis and referral.

Denise Potter, who has been employed by five foundation trusts in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire to explore how they could work together, said they would be looking at expanding into primary care.

"We could bid to run GP out-of-hours services. The quality of service has a knock on effect to our A&E departments so it would be in our interests."

She also acknowledged the trusts could even end up running GP practices.

Chris Ham, professor of health policy at the University of Birmingham, said: "I think it could certainly happen. There are a number of options open to foundation trusts, from running surgeries to working in collaboration.

"It could improve the service the patient receives. But it must also be remembered years of culture and history must be overcome."

A Department of Health spokesman did not rule out the possibility, but said the trusts would have to wait until a foundation trust review and white paper on primary care was published later this year before any such move could take place.




SEE ALSO:
Building on the foundations
19 Jun 05 |  Health
Q&A: Foundation trusts
07 May 03 |  Health


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