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Patients to run ‘Big Society’ GP practice

By Gareth Iacobucci

A GP practice has appointed patients to head up its board in a radical move that GPs claim is the embodiment of prime minister David Cameron's 'Big Society'.

The Arlesley Medical Centre in Bedfordshire has elected patients as chair and vice chair of the practice as part of its transformation into a not-for-profit social enterprise, which it says will enable it to provide a more tailored service to its local population.

The move has seen the practice evolve into a 'John Lewis' style partnership, with all practice staff handed a stake in the business.

Arlesley is understood to be one of the first individual practices in the country to become a social enterprise, although some larger social enterprises, such as the Harness GP cooperative in Brent, currently run GP practices.

Dr Mike Attias, lead GP at centre, a remote rural practice formerly run by the PCT, said he thought the model, now operating under an APMS contract, could be a blueprint for other rural practices in the future as they struggle to survive.

He said: 'Our company chair and vice chairs are patients, which is real people power. Traditionally one would have defaulted to a partnership model. But we wanted to put patients at the very centre. This is David Cameron's Big Society in action.'

He added: 'We will be offering a more varied service. This could be reproducible in small rural communities.'

Dr Attias, who is currently recruiting another permanent doctor to the practice, said the practice hoped to increase its list size from 2,700 to 3,200 by offering a more bespoke service to patients, with extended opening hours, less use of locum doctors, and patient involvement that moved beyond 'tokenistic' patient participation groups.

He said: 'We've modelled ourselves partly on the John Lewis model in that all employees become members of the company. Everybody has a £1 share of the company.'

Patients to run 'Big Society' GP practice