A group of GP practices in the Midlands are in the process of merging into what has been described as ‘the largest GP partnership in the NHS’.
CCG leaders have told GP colleagues that the new Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield super-partnership Our Health Partnership could end up with as much as 180 GP partners, although the group itself said it was unable to comment on the size while negotiations with GP practices about joining were still ongoing.
According to its website, the super-practice will be jointly led by a chief executive and financial and operations officers appointed by an elected seven-member partnership board, however board minutes from NHS Birmingham CrossCity CCG indicated that the merging practices would retain their individual GP contracts and patient lists.
Although it is not one of the official new models of care ‘vanguard’ projects receiving funding and support from NHS England, the Our Health Partnership has taken on board the NHS Five Year Forward View suggestion that GP practices working together at scale can reduce the strain on individual practices.
GPs close to discussions, who wished not to be named, suggested the large-scale merger was a bid to be able to survive in partnership model and retain doctor-patient relationships despite ongoing erosion of contractual funding.
The project’s managing director, Dr Mark Newbold, whose University of Birmingham profile describes his venture as ‘the largest GP partnership in the NHS’, declined to speak to Pulse before negotiations were completed but Dr Vish Ratnasuriya, a GP at the Lordswood House Medical Group Practice in Birmingham and the group’s spokesperson, said that the aim of the proposed super-practice would be to improve GPs’ working environment and achieving a ‘sustainable work life balance’.
He said: ‘Our Health Partnership is the name of a potential partnership of like-minded GPs in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield who believe that the future of primary care lies in exploring how GP services operating at scale can better achieve the vision of the new models of care outlined in the Five Year Forward View.
‘We are engaging and discussing with GPs and negotiations with potential partners are ongoing.’
Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said that although he too was ‘unable to say too much about it’ ahead of its launch, he was ‘aware that there are talks about a very large super partnership’.
He added: ‘From a general perspective, my view for some time has been that the business model of general practice needs to alter to survive in the modern world. If we want to continue with GP-led general practice, I believe that the super-partnership is the best model for that.’
NHS England’s national adviser to the GP vanguards, Dr Sam Everington, suggested financial efficiencies may include sharing certain staff members on a joint pay roll while time might be saved through sharing things like policy documents, measures for infection control and CQC inspection protocols.
He said: ‘For a small practice that is a massive burden but across a health economy it is a lot easier.’
Welcoming the initiative, he added: ‘I think this is what we were hoping for. You would have the vanguards driving some of the changes but that would not stop anyone else from getting on and doing what they need to do.’