Suffolk GP Federation has scaled down an ambition to create a 540,000-patient mega GP partnership, deciding instead to form a single super-partnership with almost 113,000 patients.
The single partnership – to be known as Suffolk Primary Care – will still be one of the largest in the country, consisting of a group of 14 GP surgeries across Suffolk. It is planning to launch in early April 2017.
The federation has considered a large merger since last year, initially proposing to combine all 60 practices into a 540,000-patient mega-partnership. At the time, the federation was looking at ‘different options’ including one mega-partnership or several super-partnerships with more than 100,000 patients each.
The new initiative is the first of its kind in East Anglia and has been backed by the local CCGs, which are matching funding for the project to the tune of £56,000.
Suffolk Primary Care said the new partnership model has been sparked by ‘difficulties replacing retiring GPs, a rapid rise in the needs of an ageing population and ongoing concerns around finances have put general practice and the rest of the NHS under great strain’.
GP practices within the partnership will begin to work in closer collaboration, initially starting with paperwork and administration to help cut duplication, while priorities include offering better career opportunities to help address the current recruitment crisis.
New models of delivering care are also under discussion – including using pharmacists, physiotherapists and other professionals to support doctors.
Dr Matt Piccaver, a GP at Glemsford Surgery in Glemsford, said: ‘By coming together it means surgeries can work much more effectively – sharing resources to ensure we continue to deliver the highest quality care.
‘Crucially, the partnership is about making general practice more sustainable – not cutting costs. No practices will close and there will be no redundancies. Patients will also still be able to see their GP at their registered practice.’
Dr Ed Garratt, chief officer for NHS Ipswich CCG and NHS East and West Suffolk CCGs, said: ‘This partnership strategy is one way of addressing the issues facing GP practices. We will strive to support other practices which, in the future, choose a different model for the positive development of primary care services. ‘
There have been a number of other large practice mergers, including a giant East Midlands practice, formed of 62 partners.
And Pulse also reported that a Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield super-partnership ‘Our Health Partnership’ could end up with as much as 180 GP partners.
The practices involved in the Suffolk mega merger
- Brandon Medical Practice, Brandon
- Combs Ford Surgery, Stowmarket
- Deben Road Surgery, Ipswich
- Debenham Group Practice, Debenham
- Glemsford Surgery, Glemsford
- Haven Health Surgery, Felixstowe
- Howard House Surgery, Felixstowe
- Lakenheath Surgery, Lakenheath
- Leiston Surgery, Leiston
- Norwich Road Surgery, Ipswich
- Oakfield Surgery, Newmarket
- Orchard House Surgery, Newmarket
- Stowhealth, Stowmarket
- Walton Surgery, Felixstowe