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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Pendulum may swing to smaller practices

Campaigners for small practices claim the Government is finally starting to favour them over larger partnerships or 'one-stop shops' prioritised in the NHS Plan.

A public policy adviser to Tony Blair triggered the cautious optimism on a visit to a singlehanded GP in Stockton on Tees when he commented that three-partner practices were the optimum size.

Dr Ram Ramaswamy, a singlehanded GP representative of the Small Practices Association for the north of England, who met the civil servant, recalled: 'He said three would probably be better than being singlehanded or in a larger partnership, for recruitment, for continuity of care and for practical reasons like covering holidays and sickness.

'I was quite surprised, because I thought the Government wanted bigger practices.'

Small Practices Association chair Dr Michael Taylor interpreted this comment as a 'partial victory' for 'singlehandedness'. He said: 'I think we are winning the battle by putting their noses in the troughs of evidence.

'The pendulum has definitely stopped swinging away and has started to swing back, not to singlehanders per se but the type of personal service and continuity of care they deliver.'

Despite the progress, Dr Taylor warned trusts were continuing to allow singlehanded practices to close on an almost weekly basis when incumbents retired or resigned.

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