Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has formally launched Northumbria Primary Care Ltd (NPC), a wholly owned subsidiary run by local GPs to provide business support for practices. The service gained approval and began operating on 1 April 2015, providing services for three local GP providers serving 21,000 patients.
Ponteland Medical Group operates three sites serving 11,000 patients, Collingwood Medical Group in Blyth serves 5,000 patients, and the 5,000-patient Cramlington Medical Group is at an early stage of integration into NPC.
NPC will provide services including quality, governance and compliance, payroll, financial services, HR and estates maintenance.
When first revealed a year ago, the hospital's plans sparked fears of a ‘takeover’ of general practice, GPonline reported. Foundation Trust Network (now NHS Providers) chief executive Chris Hopson described Northumbria FT’s plans as a ‘takeover’ of practices, although this description was rejected by the trust itself.
NPC said one of its member practices has already reported a 76% improvement in routine access times from an average of 21 days to five days with work continuing towards a 48-hour standard. Another saved £6,000 in monthly expenditure.
GP practice management
Ponteland Medical Group executive GP and clinical director of NPC said: ‘Over the past year we have worked closely with leaders at Northumbria Healthcare to establish NPC Ltd as a stand-alone venture which means we can capitalise on the vast corporate expertise of a highly-successful NHS foundation trust whilst having very clear lines of accountability to NPC’s own board of directors which is led by GPs.
‘At Ponteland Medical Group we have transferred the entire practice management to NPC, which means our GPs are now able to focus on day-to-day patient care rather than the time-consuming, yet crucial, aspects of managing a GP practice. The benefits for our patients are already very clear with more appointments available with GPs and quicker response times for patients when they contact the practice and we are looking forward to enhancing our services even further with the help of NPC.’
NPC board director and Northumbria FT medical director GP Dr Derek Thomson said: ‘It makes absolute sense that we pool our expertise in this way and offer a service to primary care through NPC that will ultimately help us all work towards wider shared goals for better integration and full seven-day NHS services.’
NPC said it is already advertising for more salaried GPs to join the company.