Exclusive: The Royal Wolverhampton Trust is proposing to merge the eight GMS contracts currently held by the GP practices in its ‘vertical integration’ model, Pulse has learned.
Under Wolverhampton’s existing integrated arrangement, the eight practices continue to hold their GMS contracts and subcontract to the trust, with all GPs employed by the trust.
But a report included in the minutes from the trust’s board meeting on 5 April states that it is now considering merging these contracts into one.
The trust was highlighted in reports earlier this year that health secretary Sajid Javid was looking to roll out the ‘Wolverhampton model’ across England.
The trust’s Performance and Finance Committee report, dated 31 March, said: ‘The Committee noted the proposal to merge the eight GMS contracts held by the GP practices into one and the risks identified.’
It added that the trust was taking ‘legal advice’ on the proposal and ‘working on resolving issues around the leases or premises’.
‘The CQI team will host team building sessions through May for the new oversight group; and a draft business case will be submitted to ICS to support the merger. A paper will be submitted to Private Trust Board for final approval,’ the report said.
Deputy chief operating officer for Royal Wolverhampton Trust Sian Thomas said: ‘Merging the contracts is one of the steps we are exploring as we continue on our vertical integration journey.
‘We are currently working in partnership with our eight GP practices and the contract holders to determine what is the next best step to take, that will bring the most benefit for our patients.’
Wolverhampton’s model started in 2016 with three practices and housed nine until recently, when one left due to the challenges of it sitting in a different CCG area. The remaining eight practices form the Royal Wolverhampton Trust Primary Care Network.
The model has been in the spotlight in recent months, after an article in The Times in January – based on a letter from Sajid Javid to the Prime Minister seen by the newspaper – said that the health secretary was considering introducing academy-style ‘reform trusts’ that would bring together primary and secondary care. It added that the idea had been ‘dubbed the Wolverhampton model’.
Pulse later revealed that Government officials had visited the Wolverhampton model last November to ‘explore alternative ways to deliver primary care’.
In March, a report by think tank Policy Exchange and backed by the health secretary recommended that the GMS contract be phased out by 2030 and most GPs be contracted by scaled providers such as hospital trusts. In a foreword to the report, Mr Javid said that it ‘offers some credible ideas and insights’.