Published: 06/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5904 Page 6

The first privately run in-hours personal medical services scheme has been approved and a deal is due to be signed, HSJ has learnt.

Primecare, a branch of the Nestor Healthcare Group, is the firm that is expected to provide the service, which is believed to offer extra support in an innercity area which has struggled to attract GPs.

Following a decision earlier this year to make PMS GP practices a permanent feature of primary care, rather than a series of pilots, discussions between private providers and primary care trusts have explored how privately offered services could provide an alternative to GP provision.

Primecare executives had said they would be interested in offering in-hours services to run alongside existing GP care.

The ability of GPs to end their responsibility for 24-hour patient care in the new general medical services GP contract, which began last month, was also expected to stimulate extra private sector interest in out-of-hours cover, and eventually in-hours primary care provision.

A senior Department of Health primary care source confirmed that the scheme had been approved by ministers and was expected to be signed soon.

No-one at Primecare was available to comment as HSJ went to press.