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GP partnerships will be gone in ten years, says NHS England official

GPs’ independent contractor status will be ‘probably be gone’ within ten years, NHS England’s deputy medical director Dr Mike Bewick has claimed.

Speaking at the Westminster Health Forum conference in London yesterday, Dr Bewick said that the current organisational structure of primary care is no longer ‘sustainable’ or ‘desirable’, partly due to the ongoing GP recruitment crisis.

He added that he expects new provider organisations to develop within a decade because the current model will not serve the patients’ needs, adding that the difficulties of recruiting GP partnerships will consequently mean that ‘we’ll have to think of something different’.

Dr Bewick told delegates: ‘The current organisational structure of primary care is no longer sustainable or, increasingly, desirable. I am going to say just two things that I think are going to be true: one is that in 10 years’ time the term independent contractor will be anachronistic and probably it will be gone. And the second is that we won’t talk about primary care, we will talk about out-of-hospital provision and out-of-hospital providers.’

He also said that he expects each new provider model to accommodate around 300,000 patients – similiar to CCGs

‘In primary care at the moment, more than 50% of doctors are salaried,’ he said. ‘There will be a force majeure that will move away from a partnership type organisation because it will not serve them and equally when you can’t recruit to partnerships, it will mean we’ll have to think of something different.’

However, despite proposing a move to larger primary care organisations, Dr Bewick said that this would not be at the expense of local healthcare services.

‘I don’t think we should confuse that with not delivering healthcare by people you know in your locality. Localism is in my blood.  

‘We should be forming organisational mergers with either community trusts or secondary care, or with other providers from other sectors. Providing they have the values of the NHS at their heart, I am not too worried about who delivers but more how it’s delivered and the outcomes for patients.’

Professor Clare Gerada last year said that all GPs should become salaried in her last speech as chair of the RCGP, comments that her successor Dr Maureen Baker rebuked shortly after taking office,