The Department of Health faces serious embarrassment next week when one of its top officials supports the launch of a campaign to oppose some of the government’s NHS privatisation plans.

NHS national director for primary care Dr David Colin-Thome is due to turn out for the official launch of campaigning charity the Family Doctor Association.

The organisation says it is a network of 1,000 GP practices that pride themselves on offering traditional continuity of care and ‘what patients really want from primary care: access to their own GP’. It was formerly the Small Practices Association, which represented the interests of small and single-handed practices.

The invitation is headlined ‘Family doctors unite to take on Tesco and Virgin threat’, and it continues: ‘We have serious concerns that the traditional core values of general practice, in particular continuity of care, risk being lost as the government encourages increased private sector involvement.’

Dr Colin-Thome is also a part-time GP in Runcorn, Cheshire. He is working with director general of commissioning Mark Britnell on the world class commissioning scheme, which will open NHS primary care and other services to competition from private sector players such as Tesco and Virgin.

FDA chief executive Moira Auchterlonie told HSJ that Dr Colin-Thome would be attending the launch ‘as a supporter of the association’.

Asked whether the primary care czar’s support was an apparent contradiction of government policy, a DoH official said: ‘David Colin-Thome said that he was happy to support existing organisations, such as the newly named FDA, in working with their members to improve services as well as supporting recruiting new providers where they can improve services.

‘The important focus is how do we ensure continuing improvement of care for our patients. Current arrangements have frequently produced unwarranted variations in care.’

He added that Professor Colin-Thome would be happy to clarify his position at the meeting.

In a statement Dr Colin-Thome said world class commissioning would preserve continuity of care.

‘Based on previous experience, applications are likely to come from existing GP practices seeing an opportunity to expand into new areas, from voluntary and charitable organisations who are already working in these deprived areas and new private sector organisations wishing to directly employ GPs to provide services to patients,’ he said.

‘Patients can choose to register with these new providers and continuity of care will be provided by the new providers.

‘It is important that new high quality and innovative services are provided to patients who have not been well served in the past through existing arrangements.’

See Mark Britnell on world class commissioning