Headlines: October 24th, 2001

Primary care trusts should only embark on partnerships with the private sector if they can be sure they will benefit patients – without harming staff or other health services, says a new joint policy paper from the NHS Alliance and the King’s Fund.The paper calls on primary care trusts (PCTs) to experiment carefully with PPPs.

And it offers three requirements to be reached before the private sector is used to provide building finance, managerial support or patient services for PCTs.

These are that the cost to the whole of the local health system should be considered rather than looking at individual budgets, that there should be clear safeguards to maintain quality, and that PPPs should not simply be an exercise in cutting costs at the expense of staff pay and conditions.

Dr Steve Gillam, King’s Fund director of primary care, said: ‘Primary care groups and trusts are relatively small organisations. Many are just getting to grips with their new responsibilities. If they are to make sensible use of the private sector, they need to work together to share their experiences. They need to be very clear of the purposes of partnership, and what will count as success.’

Public-Private Partnerships in Primary Care, edited by Michael Dixon and Steve Gillam, is available from the NHS Alliance on 01246 410707.