Primecare boosts PR as GP contract takes effect

Britain’s largest healthcare recruitment group, Nestor Healthcare, is to step up its PR work for Primecare, the company’s division that provides out-of-hours services to GPs.

Primecare is using Chime’s health marketing agency Ozone for a PR campaign that launches to coincide with the 1 April implementation of the new GP contract.

Under the new system, a GP practice can opt out of providing evening and weekend care by handing responsibility to its local Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Ozone is aiming to ‘build communications with’ PCTs, clinicians and regulators on behalf of Primecare, which is currently bidding to retain or win business from around 50 of the more than 300 PCTs across the UK, according to PR manager Cinzia Marrocco.

Marrocco said 2004 was a ‘crucial’ year for Primecare, which currently serves more than nine million patients on behalf of about 9,000 GPs.

She added: ‘Our message to PCTs is that we can deliver against quality standards.’

Ozone is also handling internal comms across the company’s national network of about 500 clinical and support staff.

Ozone chairman Gareth Zundel said there was ‘confusion’ over the role private companies play in healthcare provision. But he added that Primecare was an example of how ‘private-sector investment in the very best talent, aligned to the right technical infrastructure, can help an under-resourced NHS to deliver better patient care’.

Results out in February showed that the Nestor division in which the Primecare brand sits made a loss last year. The loss of NHS contracts and changes in pricing structures hit sales during 2003, with turnover falling by 12 per cent.

Ozone was appointed following a competitive pitch last November, but has been working on an ad hoc basis until now, Marrocco said.

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