A regional office has stepped in to prevent a health authority paying GPs to manage a primary care group instead of appointing a chief executive.

Leicestershire HA had agreed to pay GPs to take on the role in a move which has prompted fears of a GP 'carve-up'. The HA is also supervising what is believed to be the only PCG in the country to be boycotted by GPs.

At North Charnwood PCG, a management structure has been developed allocating areas of responsibility, ranging from information technology to clinical governance, to the seven GP board members. The HA has approved the proposal and intends to share the general manager's salary of around£40,000 between the GPs and key practice staff.

Kieron Murphy, HA assistant director with responsibility for PCGs, said the GPs had a long track-record of working co-operatively and denied that non-

medical staff will be marginalised.

The HA was confident it could get around the regulation which requires PCGs to have a chief executive with voting rights, and was considering appointing a chief executive 'in name only'. But a spokesperson for the NHS Executive Trent regional office insisted this was not an option: 'They aren't allowed to do it... It is in the regulations that the chief executive has to be a single person with a single vote. Our job is to performance manage. The HA is making sure that the regulations are implemented.'

PCG vice-chair Keith Evans claimed the scheme had been approved by the region. He suggested it would be disruptive to appoint an outsider as general manager who might have to be replaced when the group moved up to trust status.

'This is a fluid time - how to do the job depends on the situation in your locality.' A full-time chief executive would be appointed when trust status was achieved, he added.

The boycotted PCG covers Hinkley and Bosworth. As HSJ went to press, the HA was meeting local GPs to try to persuade them to stand for election to the board.

Unison sharply criticised the HA's handling of the two maverick PCGs and called on the NHS Executive and the Department of Health to issue new guidance on the administration of PCGs.

East Midlands regional organiser Bob Quick said the management role permitted to the North Charnwood GPs had reawakened fears that GPs would carve up PCGs between them.

'GPs are almost sticking two fingers up to the NHS. And we don't accept that GPs have the time to properly run a PCG.'