Virgin, Tesco, NetCare, and Boots have said they will not be bidding to provide GP practices under a scheme designed to extend services in under-doctored areas.

The companies had previously been mooted as potential bidders for the Fairness in Primary Care procurement scheme (see 'GP tendering could herald new era of competition for practices').

Nine primary care trusts in under-doctored areas are involved in the scheme, which allows them to contract out GP services under the alternative provider medical services contract.

County Durham, Great Yarmouth, Hartlepool and Nottinghamshire County PCTs are in the first tranche of the scheme. Ashton, Leigh and Wigan, Bolton, East Lancashire, Luton and Manchester PCTs are in the second.

HSJ understands there have been more than 40 bids for the contracts in tranche one.

Independent providers IntraHealth, Care UK and Chilvers-McCrea Healthcare, which already provide GP services, have confirmed that they are making bids to provide practices. IntraHealth, which runs four practices, is involved in the first tranche and has been shortlisted to participate in the invitation to tender stage.

The British Medical Association has expressed concerns about the possibility of the scheme being extended to areas without a GP shortage.