RCGP chair backs hospital takeover of practices under integration scheme

The RCGP chair has backed an integration programme under which practices are being taken over by a hospital trust.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard visited Somerset Symphony after the hospital-led primary and acute care services (PACS) programme announced it had taken control of a fourth GP practice and was in talks to take over a further eight.

The college chair - who told GPonline last year that GPs needed to recognise that some changes to ways of working were inevitable - said she was 'pleased' by the success of the integration project.

At Millbrook Surgery in Castle Cary, where Symphony chair Dr Steve Edgar is a partner, Professor Stokes-Lampard was shown the scheme's enhanced primary care service, which is taking a proactive approach to supporting patients with the most complex conditions, and focusing on health awareness and prevention.

NHS integration

The college leader went on to visit Yeovil District Hospital, which heads the PACS project, to meet GPs involved in the vertical integration and discuss the role of health coaches in the new system.

Last week LMC leaders in Somerset welcomed news that Symphony Healthcare Services (SHS), Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust’s subsidiary company, had taken over its fourth practice. The struggling 13,000-patient Highbridge Medical Centre will now be run by SHS, with its PMS contract held by a GP nominated by the company. GPs at the practice are expected to be salaried under the new arrangement, as at SHS’s other practices.

SHS said the company was currently in the final stages of the integration process with two further practices, while integration talks were 'at varying stages of development' with another six.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said that with increasing demand for GP services, ‘it is important we tailor primary care services to meet the needs of the local population – and I’m pleased that the Symphony Programme is proving so successful.’

Care quality

She added: ‘It is encouraging to see the collaborative working between primary and secondary care colleagues and how, by pulling together, they have found innovative solutions to delivering quality care to patients in Somerset.’

Dr Edgar said: ‘This has been a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate how our new models of care and the new health coach roles we have introduced are actually working on a day-to-day basis, building relationships across organisations to support both GPs and patients. We truly believe that this new approach is enabling us to provide a much improved and joined up healthcare service for our patients and their families, as well as supporting our GP colleagues and teams.’

NHS England’s director of new care models Samantha Jones said: ‘Somerset’s Symphony programme is showing how the partnership between acute, primary, community care and voluntary services can make a real difference to the care patients receive. It was great to see their multi-organisation, multi-disciplinary team approach in action and to hear how it has been having a positive impact on both staff and patients.’

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