Exclusive Government officials have visited Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust’s salaried GP model to explore ‘alternative ways to deliver primary care’, Pulse has learned.
The visit to Wolverhampton’s integrated model – known as ‘vertical integration’ [VI] and where nine GP practices subcontract their GMS contracts to the trust – took place in November last year.
This comes after The Times reported in January that Sajid Javid is planning a review of primary care, which could see GPs incentivised to join up with trusts in a model like that in Wolverhampton.
Minutes from the Trust’s finance and performance committee meeting on 22 October 2021 said: ‘Primary Care/NHS reform are looking at a VI [vertical integration] model and have expressed a wish to visit RWT in November to explore alternative ways to deliver primary care.’
A Royal Wolverhampton Trust spokesperson confirmed to Pulse that the visit did take place and it was from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
A spokesperson for DHSC said it had nothing further to add.
Wolverhampton’s ‘vertical integration’ model started in 2016 with three practices. The trust now runs nine, although Pulse understands this will soon reduce to eight.
GPs continue to hold the GMS contracts but subcontract to Royal Wolverhampton and all staff are employed by the trust. The nine practices form a primary care network together.
The Trust told Pulse that the benefits for GPs have included dedicated back-office support and access to professionalised governance to support CQC processes, complaints and incidents, while patients have benefited from practices that have more services and resilience.
The Times’ article – based on a letter from Mr Javid to the Prime Minister seen by the newspaper – said that the health secretary was considering academy-style ‘reform trusts’ that would bring together primary and secondary care.
It suggested that GPs could be offered incentives to be directly employed by trusts instead of running their own practices as independent contractors, but that there would be ‘no forcible state takeover’ of GP practices.
The idea has been ‘dubbed the Wolverhampton model’, it added.
The DHSC previously denied The Times’ claims that the plans would amount to ‘nationalisation’ of GPs.