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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Will 'cuckoo in nest' poach our patients?

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GP's advice

The new practice is a challenge

Far from being a threat, this is a big opportunity for your practice. As well as getting an excellent registrar at a time when they are thin on the ground, you have been handed the means to stem the flow of patients from your practice to the new one.

It is usual for GP registrars to be given a contract of employment, and there is no reason why that should not include an exclusion clause forbidding the registrar from taking any of your patients on to her own list within a specified period of time ­ up to two years would be reasonable.

Remember, though, that patients cannot be 'poached'. They have to make a positive decision to change practices, and even those who are not particularly satisfied often stay put due to inertia.

It is normal for a practice that develops its premises or overhauls its services to attract some patients from neighbouring surgeries, but if you are still seeing a steady drift of patients towards this new practice, you need to review the services you are offering and consider whether these are appropriate for a 21st century practice.

In an age where many PCOs are striving to make singlehanded practices extinct, it is rather surprising that yours chose to maintain and support one in your area when an established partnership was willing to absorb the list.

Instead of sitting back and feeling threatened, perhaps you should swallow your pride and find out what this new GP is offering that you are not, and act to remedy this.

GP's advice

Look at your own practice set-up

It is understandable you feel threatened by this young upstart. He may have extra development funding but this alone would not be enough to attract your patients if you were providing a first-class service. It is likely that you are not, and there is really no excuse for this given your list size and experience as a training practice.

You should be asking yourselves what this GP is doing well that you are not.

If you become intent on trying to spoil his obvious drive and innovation you are doomed to failure. Just consider the consequences of refusing to train his wife.

She will go to another trainer and still join her husband as a part-time partner. You will gain nothing but their antipathy.

You should definitely agree to train her. It sounds as if she will be an asset to your practice and it will be an opportunity to befriend both her and her husband. You may fear her popularity among your patients could trigger another patient exodus when she leaves, but this will only happen if she and her husband offer something that you do not.

Look to your own set-up. Have you all become complacent? What can you learn from both of these doctors?

Recognise your deficiencies and improve your services. If you want development money too you could always consider PMS.

There is also the possibility of drawing both of this talented couple into a closer association or even merger with your own practice, surely the best option?

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