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At the heart of general practice since 1960

GP federation set to merge into 113,000-patient super-practice

Suffolk GP Federation has scaled down an ambition to create a 540,000-patient mega GP partnership, deciding instead to form a single super-partnership with almost 113,000 patients.

The single partnership – to be known as Suffolk Primary Care - will still be one of the largest in the country, consisting of a group of 14 GP surgeries across Suffolk. It is planning to launch in early April 2017.

The federation has considered a large merger since last year, initially proposing to combine all 60 practices into a 540,000-patient mega-partnership. At the time, the federation was looking at ‘different options’ including one mega-partnership or several super-partnerships with more than 100,000 patients each.

The new initiative is the first of its kind in East Anglia and has been backed by the local CCGs, which are matching funding for the project to the tune of £56,000.

Suffolk Primary Care said the new partnership model has been sparked by ‘difficulties replacing retiring GPs, a rapid rise in the needs of an ageing population and ongoing concerns around finances have put general practice and the rest of the NHS under great strain’.

GP practices within the partnership will begin to work in closer collaboration, initially starting with paperwork and administration to help cut duplication, while priorities include offering better career opportunities to help address the current recruitment crisis.

New models of delivering care are also under discussion – including using pharmacists, physiotherapists and other professionals to support doctors.

Dr Matt Piccaver, a GP at Glemsford Surgery in Glemsford, said: ‘By coming together it means surgeries can work much more effectively – sharing resources to ensure we continue to deliver the highest quality care.

‘Crucially, the partnership is about making general practice more sustainable – not cutting costs. No practices will close and there will be no redundancies. Patients will also still be able to see their GP at their registered practice.’

Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer for NHS Ipswich CCG and NHS East and West Suffolk CCGs, said: ‘This partnership strategy is one way of addressing the issues facing GP practices. We will strive to support other practices which, in the future, choose a different model for the positive development of primary care services. ‘

There have been a number of other large practice mergers, including a giant East Midlands practice, formed of 62 partners.

And Pulse also reported that a Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield super-partnership ‘Our Health Partnership’ could end up with as much as 180 GP partners.

The practices involved in the Suffolk mega merger

  • Brandon Medical Practice, Brandon
  • Combs Ford Surgery, Stowmarket
  • Deben Road Surgery, Ipswich
  • Debenham Group Practice, Debenham
  • Glemsford Surgery, Glemsford
  • Haven Health Surgery, Felixstowe
  • Howard House Surgery, Felixstowe
  • Lakenheath Surgery, Lakenheath
  • Leiston Surgery, Leiston
  • Norwich Road Surgery, Ipswich
  • Oakfield Surgery, Newmarket
  • Orchard House Surgery, Newmarket
  • Stowhealth, Stowmarket
  • Walton Surgery, Felixstowe

Readers' comments (12)

  • Basic economics: economies of scale only work if it leads to efficiency. If not staff costs it must mean reduced pay or reduced service

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  • I am the Chief Executive of the Suffolk GP Federation. The first part of this article is wrong and misleading.

    A year ago Suffolk Fed initiated a discussion, with our 60 member practices, around different strategic options to address the pressures and sustainability issues. These included going salaried, merging, creating mini-federations and super-partnership.

    A group of 14 practices have decided to form a single-partnership and this is their decision and nothing to do with the Federation. It was never expected that all practices would want to join the single-partnership.

    The Fed is supporting the single-partnership with project management but we are also supporting member practices who are following other strategies, particularly collaborative working within localities.

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  • Too many cooks ... spoil the broth

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  • Make people travel longer to bigger surgeries...simples. What is this obcession with having practices every couple of miles???!!! This causes poor quality of staff and bad economics. Time to join the new millenium me phinks.

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  • It's all just reshuffling the cards isn't it. Bigger practices, reorganise everything...this doesn't fix the under lying issue. It's funding. The problem is funding. This is a distraction ...keep em busy reorganising themselves, they'll be too tied up to notIce there's no cash. There'll be fewer 'big wigs' to argue with and besides we can buy the top folk off and enslave the salaried minions. So much easier to control the work force if the bulk of them can be forced to toe the line through brute force. Sorry but It's bollarks

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  • Totally agree with Jo Smit. Whats the point of merging if you're not going to increase efficiency and save costs. The biggest cost to any service organisation is staff, followed by estates/overheads. Merging back office functions instead of doing things 14 different times in 10 different ways is of course going to lead to a reduction in admin staff!

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  • Would be interesting to know if those merging their partnerships are also merging their contracts (and therefore also their clinical systems and practice codes)?

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  • I am involved in this initiative - it is both a conversation and a journey - and we are only at the beginning. We are exploring a whole range of issues, even at this early stage, and there is very little that will escape critique and analysis. What has been surprising and uplifting is the sheer energy and cooperative thinking and explicit willingness to work together that has developed in the short time we have been doing the detailed work. It is a positive initiative to shape the future not a knee jerk defense of the unsustainable.

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  • I too am involved as a Practice Manager like GP Partner 11 54 am above. I echo and agree with those comments, in particular those referring to the co operative thinking and willingness to work together demonstrated thus far by participants, more has been achieved in under 12 months than I've ever seen in our corner of Primary Care. To those who are critical or wish to sneer-fine!-you don't have to be a part of it membership is by opting in, feel free to share your answers to the catastrophic situation we are facing in GP land, however I would venture to suggest that doing nothing is a very rapidly disappearing option.

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  • Nothing against this but time and time again I've seen the trend of smaller surgery having higher patient satisfaction rates, lower admission and AED attendance, lower referral rates, better mortality etc.

    It might being about co operative working but horizontal merger often doesn't being about better outcome for the consumer (patients) - Just more profit for the producers (GP).

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