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GP practices set up not-for-profit company with trusts in bid to attract staff

GP practices in North Cumbria will start delivering their services via a not-for-profit company – set up with hospital trusts and a university – in a bid to reduce risk for newly-recruited GPs.

Under the plans, GPs will become salaried to the new company, although 14 participating practices – which together cover over 120,000 patients – will retain their respective GMS contracts.

The North Cumbria Primary Care Collaborative will be formed by the GP practices, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, North Cumbria Hospitals NHS Trust, Cumbria Health on Call and University of Central Lancashire.

The alliance will see practice partners retain their respective GMS contracts but sub-contract their delivery of services to the social enterprise, which will then employ all the staff, manage the business elements of the practices, and take on the premises lease or ownership.

GPs said they hoped the move would help attract new GPs, solve premises concerns and focus on clinical work.

 Lancashire & Cumbria Consortium of LMCs chief executive Peter Higgins said the decision comes as practices are struggling with workload, recruitment and premises concerns.

He explained that partners are increasingly worried about being the ‘last man standing’, as others leave and the new doctors coming in don’t want to take on a capital asset.

But Mr Higgins hopes that this ‘ambitious attempt to rebuild general practice’ will be a success and attract newly-qualified GPs to the area.

He said: ‘We can offer them portfolio careers, we can offer them experience in primary care, in community services and maybe in acute care, and that’s more attractive to a lot of newly-qualified GPs entering the market.’

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The Cumbria Partnership Foundation Trust said that the solution should allow GPs to ‘focus on clinical work’.

A spokesperson said: ‘North Cumbria Health and Care System has recognised that in order to sustain services, it must support GP practices who are experiencing a shortage of GPs and increasing demand. 

‘Therefore partners in the system have mobilised to support GP practices by establishing a not for profit company that can manage the business elements of running a GP practice such as HR, IT and estates so that GPs can focus on clinical work.’

It added that ’14 practices in Cumbria, with 120,744 patients’ had ‘registered their interest in becoming part of the alliance’.

The first three GP practices are due to join the new alliance from June.

‘The business case is now in its final phase and undertaking due diligence on the first three practices in the first wave with an indicative timescale of June 2018,’ the trust spokesperson said.

As Pulse has reported, GP partners are increasingly concluding that life may be better as a salaried employee, to escape from the pressures of partnership.

Nearly two years ago, half of partners surveyed by Pulse said they would be willing to go salaried if ‘offered the right deal’.