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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)

  • What do we think will happen to property in the event of a salaried service?

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  • whatever, but they will realise their great mistake when the cost of a salaried service starts to add up. Same as out of hours.

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  • Oh well looks like i might decide to retire earlier than expected.

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  • When the 2004 cohort go no GPs at all.

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  • AlanAlmond

    The currently partner model is apparently no longer 'fit for purpose' - what we are aiming for is a more expensive (but very easily controlled) primary care service with no continuity and hardly any Drs then ..that's what the 21st Century requires is it? That's what these genius's in the Lords have in mind? Or is it really they don't have a clue what the reality of a fully salaried service would be. More like. Partnerships aren't working because the service is massively underfunded. Making structural changes which will in fact make the whole system less responsive to local needs and MORE expensive is bonkers. But of cause it will happen. The survey simply reflects passive acceptance of a political inevitability ..don't mistake it for a vote of confidence in this stupidity.

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  • I love the partnership model but the general trend now seems to be against it. Ten years is a very long time and much can change. Unfortunately it will be continuity if care and the patients will suffer.
    Whatever happens you can guarantee that if it costs more or fails the rhetoric will be ' lazy GPs who choose to opt out if the responsibility or caring for their patients' ' same as out of hours. They don't realise how good they have it till they loose it.

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  • A fully salaried service will simply push demand onto GPs using threats of GMC referral if we do not meet demand. If you walk away at the end of your day with unfiled results/patients to call back, they will just use regulatory threat to control you.

    Do not expect this to be your saviour. All they want is to deliver it more cheaply.

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  • I agree with hamster above. The reality of GMC and now manslaughter prosecutions makes batting things back as 'not in my contract' very difficult as a form of pushback. Once you 'see' a medical problem it is very difficult to 'unsee' it and this is the situation GPs find themselves in with 50 nicely typed and timely discharges/workload dumps arriving for each GP daily.

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  • everyone has a price your price to work as salaried! ... BMA model ~60k full time ?

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