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Cheshire gains 'any qualified provider' status.

CHESHIRE LOC has become the second optical committee to be awarded NHS Any Qualified Provider (AQP) status in as many months, putting it in a good position when bidding for community service contracts in the future. Stockport LOC was the first to gain AQP status in October.

Optometrist and LOC Support Unit (LOCSU) optical lead, Dharmesh Patel (pictured below), drafted the bid which was later approved by the Royal Vale and South Cheshire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) for the provision of an ocular hypertension monitoring service in the area. Once established, the new service expects to see 1,000 patients annually, who would previously have been monitored in hospital.

Mr. Patel said: "Any challenges presented by the AQP process are more than outweighed by the benefits a successful application brings to local practices. AQP status opens the door to a better, closer relationship with local commissioners and more community services contracts."

Using the company that the Unit has set up for each LOC proved crucial in securing the status.



Delighted with the news, LOCSU chairman, Alan Tinger (pictured above) said: "I can't begin to say how pleased I am that the LOC company concept that LOCSU created to help LOCs develop new services has now taken off. In 2008, well ahead of its time, LOCSU incorporated a separate company for each LOC in England ready for single provider commissioning.

"AQP is a relatively new NHS procurement process for the commissioning of services. The complex application process potential providers need to go through in an AQP procurement is difficult for individual practices to navigate through. The LOC company that LOCSU set up some years ago for every LOC in England can now be brought to life and used as a contracting vehicle, effectively for a consortium of practices in such bids and for bids where an area-wide, single provider is specified by the commissioners."

Operating under the Primary Eyecare (Stockport) Ltd name, Stockport LOC will provide a minor eye conditions service across its area from April 2013.

Mr. Tinger added: "The AQP process offers LOCs the opportunity to get closer to the heart of the NHS and the way that the new NHS wants to commission services. This achievement by these two LOCs, with the support of LOCSU, also underlines to other LOCs that they shouldn't be put off by their own perceptions of potential barriers. This is only the start as Stockport and Cheshire LOCs have shown and the sky is the limit. Working together with ophthalmologists, for example, much larger schemes can be on the radar."

It should be noted that the AQP process in eye health is not a rival operation to GPs, it is about adding value.

"LOCSU is here to help--from providing expertise and support in establishing LOC companies to completing the AQP application process and accessing the necessary software to underpin the bid," said Mr. Tinger.

Emily McCormick

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Title Annotation:NEWS EXTRA
Author:McCormick, Emily
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2012
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