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Only one in five GPs thinks partnership model will still exist in ten years' time

Exclusive Almost two-thirds of GPs believe that the partnership model will not exist in ten years' time, while only one in five believe it has a long-term future, a Pulse survey has found. 

The survey of nearly 850 GPs comes as a House of Lords committee this month said that the traditional model of general practice is 'no longer fit for purpose' and the Government should explore a future where GPs are under its 'direct employment'.

GP leaders told Pulse that partnerships will only survive 'in isolated patches', due to ongoing pressures and future liabilities on practices, include increasing legal claims.

The survey shows that 57% of GPs think the partnership model has no long-term future, compared with 53% at the same time last year.

It comes as Pulse reported this week that the partners at four practices in Gosport, Hampshire, have agreed to move to salaried posts working under the local hospital trust.

The partnership model has been under debate after the House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS, set up in May last year, said that the 'small business model' of general practice is 'inhibiting change' that is necessary to put the NHS on a sustainable footing.

It cited comments made by RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, who told the committee: 'Whilst personally I love the partnership-led model of general practice, I know it is not likely to be fit for the long-term future.'

However, the college later clarified the comments, with Professor Stokes-Lampard telling Pulse that she 'fully supports' the partnership model, but that the model needs to adapt to new plans for integration being developed by NHS England, which will see organisations providing primary and secondary care. 

Respondents to the survey said that, despite Professor Stokes-Lampard's belief that the partnership model will continue, younger GPs have little interest in taking on partnerships.

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard told Pulse that it will only exist in 'isolated patches. He added: 'There are so many pressures and future liabilities on practices in this litigious age that traditional partnerships [are] unlikely to continue'.

He added: 'The majority of new GPs do not want the extra responsibility and admin work of being a partner at a time when they can often earn as much as or more than the partners in the practice.'

However, he added: 'With the loss of this model may go a loss of continuity of care and the feeling that patients have of their “own doctor” who looks after them for a lifetime. I have certainly had many of my patients for more than 30 years.

'This is a great sadness as the partnership model has served us well for half a century.'

Dr Rob Hendry, a GP who has emigrated to work in Western Australia, having previously worked in East Cheshire, said 'no matter what Government', they will want a salaried GP workforce 'as they would have more control' and could 'pay us less for more work'.

Do you think the partnership model of general practice will exist in 10 years' time?

Yes - 20%

No - 57%

Don't know - 23%

The survey was launched on 3 March 2017, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 28 questions covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. A total of 846 GPs answered the question above.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Thank you "mightier than the sword" McTaggart. I feel that the big risk is of underselling ourselves: this is where our union needs to earn its money! ..and we don't need the cardigans worrying about the service: please lock them away until after any negotiations!
    Chambers is the way we should move, but I don't hear any vocal proponents.
    The lack of GPs can't be obviated by non-GP clinicians unless they are allowed to feel the heat of being responsible for outcomes like we are.....I don't see that coming. Sit back, twiddle your thumbs a bit if you can and wait for them all to"get it" and come to us.

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  • yep, locum chambers would be the best - independence and set own terms/conditions.

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  • Here in Gosport I have a problem of being shackled to a PFI-type lease. I would consider going salaried to be free from it, but not otherwise.

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