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27-03-2012 | Article

GP private shareholders fear

Abstract

False Economy

GPs with shares in private health companies could be accused of gaining financially from decisions over patient care, suggests a report showing the extent of CCG boards' private interests.

According to the Guardian, research by the pressure group False Economy reveals that at least half and in some cases all of the GPs on the boards of 22 CCGs have financial interests in private or other non-NHS providers.

The group looked at publicly available details for the boards of around 50 CCGs. In 10 CCGs, a majority of GP board members belong to a company in partnership with Virgin Care, running dermatology, physiotherapy and rheumatology services. All six GPs at Bath and North East Somerset CCG work for practices in a partnership with Virgin Care, called Assura Minerva. The Guardian report points out that while such GPs could be barred from any decisions on tenders involving their related company, this could hamper the CCG's ability to commission effectively.

A False Economy spokesman told the newspaper: "The risk revealed by our findings is that GPs who formed provider companies in good faith, in response to government policy, and often on a cooperative basis, find themselves accused of trying to profit from GP commissioning by rival bidders - often big health firms with private equity backers looking for any opportunity to muscle in on local health services."

RCGP Chair Dr Clare Gerada suggested GPs' decision-making would inevitably be swayed by any commercial involvement. She said: "The fact that GPs have these outside interests may influence their commissioning decisions, and may put at risk their relationship with their patients because the patient might mistrust where they are being sent to for treatment and their GPs' motive."

Leading NAPC member Dr Johnny Marshall conceded that CCG board GPs with private interests could find themselves in a difficult position. He said Health Ministers should introduce tough measures before the reforms are fully implemented, based on the Nolan principles for public life.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price