The chair of the RCGP has denied saying the GP partnership model is ‘unfit for purpose’ after a House of Lords report used her words to justify a recommendation that ministers move towards a salaried service.
The House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS published a landmark report earlier this month that concluded the ‘small business model’ of general practice was ‘inhibiting change’ and quoted RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard as saying that ‘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’.
Professor Stokes-Lampard was one of many expert witnesses reporting to the inquiry, which concluded 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’.
Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada also gave evidence on GP partnerships, where she explained how her London-based Hurley Group operates by having ‘an overarching management structure with salaried doctors within it’.
Lord Patel, chair of the committee, a cross-bench peer and an obstetrician, said at the time of the report’s publication that it was ‘time to look at the way care is delivered’.
He added: ‘This may well involve changing the model where GPs are self-employed small businesses. Delivering healthcare fit for the 21st century requires improvement in primary care to relieve pressure on hospitals. That change should be delivered by GPs.’
But the report’s recommendations were met with a strong rebuttal from the RCGP, which said in a statement that the partnership model ‘must be nurtured and maintained as an option going forward’.
After Pulse sought clarification from the college on its position, Professor Stokes-Lampard told Pulse that the college ‘has never said’ that partnership is unfit for purpose and that her comments should be seen in the context of the wider oral evidence made to the committee.
Professor Stokes-Lampard told Pulse in a statement: ‘The College has never said that partnership is “unfit for purpose”. We fully support the partnership model and believe that it is the bedrock of high quality family health care in the UK.’
She added: ‘In my lengthy evidence to the House of Lords Committee on a wide range of issues affecting general practice, I made clear the benefits of the partnership model – but also the importance of flexibility in the way we work in our local communities.’
She said that ‘as the landscape shifts’, GPs will ‘all need to consider other models of care provision, where appropriate, that are sustainable in the face of rising demand and an ageing population’, adding: ‘But as these models develop, we must also ensure that GP partnerships are able to adapt and remain sustainable.’
Professor Stokes-Lampard told Pulse that the RCGP ‘will be responding to the House of Lords report and discussing the issue at RCGP Council in due course’.
Professor Gerada and the Hurley Group declined to comment.