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Health secretary promises to cut GP bureaucracy

The ongoing review into the GP partnership model will be ‘critical’ and lead to a reduction in bureaucracy relating to paperwork and appraisals, the health secretary has said.

Speaking today at the Best Practice conference, organised by the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC), Matt Hancock said new models of organising practices, as well as embracing technology, would form components of reaching that goal.

But, also speaking at the conference, partnership review lead Dr Nigel Watson said ‘discussions’ about suitable models, especially which could reduce liability for GP partners, ‘had not come to a conclusion’.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I think that the partnership model review by Dr Watson is going to be a critical moment, as we look towards what is the future model for primary care. Not just an expanded workforce, as important as that is, but also with the support that makes GPs’ lives easier too.’

He said he wanted the review to address the amount of time GPs ‘spend doing paperwork’, adding that a ‘fully integrated and interoperable system’ will ‘remove the burden of bureaucracy’.

He said: ‘I want to remove as much of the burden of bureaucracy as possible, and lift the burden of liability.’

This comes after the partnership review’s interim report published earlier this month warned that GP workload is rising to the point where it ‘verging on unmanageable’ and may be putting patients at risk.

Mr Hancock suggested new ways of working, particularly highlighting ‘John Lewis partnership-style mutuals’ as well as the NAPC’s Primary Care Home at-scale model of working, which he said that he ‘loves’.

He said: ‘Why shouldn’t primary care practices be able to set themselves up as John Lewis partnership-style mutuals? I’m not wedded to any one model. And I want to be driven by the evidence, but I am attracted to a model that benefits primary care staff and patients. And I’ve seen primary care practices that blossomed under the Primary Care Home model… and other new more integrated models of care that are emerging.’

However, Dr Watson suggested to delegates at the conference that reducing partnership liability may come at the cost of having to give up their GMS contracts.

He said: ‘The risks include premises and indemnity but there are other ones, so we are exploring other models. But I have to tell you today that the LLP – the limited liabiltity partnership – is not the panacea that people think it is.

‘The regulation associated with it, the cost of being an LLP may be prohibitive.’

Adding that discussions on LLPs are ongoing, he added that ‘as a profession [GPs] have to be slightly careful’, as it’s only under GMS that partners hold their contract ‘in perpetuity’, and only GPs are able to hold GMS contracts.

‘If you go into full limited liability partnerships, then we open up the door, potentially, for others to come in.’

The House of Lords Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS published a report last year that said the traditional model of general practice was ‘no longer fit for purpose’ and the Government should explore a future where GPs are under its ‘direct employment’.