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Largest-ever merger creates 275,000-patient super-practice

A group of 35 GP practices has agreed to merge into a super-practice with 200 GP partners and 275,000 patients, becoming the largest practice in the UK.

The Our Health Partnership merger across Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield – which Pulse first reported earlier this year – will form the largest GP practice in the NHS both by partner count and the number of patients on its list, and a statement today said it envisaged further ‘steady growth’.

It will be run by an executive team and a seven-member partnership board, and its leaders have promised local practices that they will be able to retain their local links with patients and their own ‘ethos and identity’ if they join the venture.

It comes as Prime Minister David Cameron announced on the weekend that the Government is creating a new voluntary GP contract for GP practices willing to work at a scale of at least 30,000 patients, offering 8am-8pm, seven-day-a-week appointments and additional services.

The rise of super-practices was also welcomed by the GPC last month in its vision for the future of general practice, and follows on from last month’s announcement of another mega-merger creating a 100,000-patient practice across the East Midlands.

Our Health Partnership said practices will benefit from efficiency savings, a buying group, discounts on accountancy and professional insurance, a salaried GP pool as well as ‘increased influence in the local health economy’.

Dr Vish Ratnasuriya, chair of a ‘transition board’ negotiating the merger, said they were creating a ‘unique organisation’ which would ’ensure local general practice thrives and that our patients and the NHS as a whole benefit for many years to come’.

He added: ’We will also be able to influence the developing primary care strategy across the city and ensure that this integration is underpinned by independently contracted, partner-based, local general practice that is strong and sustainable.’

Although not one of NHS England’s official ‘vanguard’ areas to be born out of NHS England’s Five-Year Forward View, Dr Ratnasuriya said the size of the practice would mean it could ’respond to, and embrace, the exciting challenges presented by the Five Year Forward View, rather than be overwhelmed and overtaken by it’.

He also revealed Our Health Partnership’s intention to develop into a multispecialty community partnership (MCP) model, which would be ’built on a foundation of efficient and effective general practice’ but would provide secondary care services too.

The merger has been welcomed by local LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley who has said he believes that the super-practice model is the best way for GP-led general practice to ‘survive in the modern world’.