Red tape blocks practices federating and sharing management

Practices looking to federate and increase efficiency by sharing management are finding red tape is stopping them.

The news comes after GP revealed GP leaders feared DH plans to integrate practices and drive up their efficiency could blur boundaries with commissioning groups and undermine their autonomy.

The GPC has warned that any move to force practices to merge unwillingly or share back office staff would contravene the practice-based contract.

Speaking at a National Association of Primary Care south east workshop entitled Addressing the Commissioning Agenda in Gatwick, West Sussex on Tuesday, West Sussex GP Dr Matthew Taylor-Roberts, GP commissioning lead for Arun, said practices had looked at sharing management elements.

He added: ‘There were obstacles in founding companies including VAT. We’ve looked at this in our area and the law wouldn’t allow us to do what we wanted to do without being heavily penalised with additional costs.

‘We could achieve quite significant savings if we shared that resource. There are issues about holding contracts by employing bodies that actually make it so difficult to set up that we can’t even get it off the blocks.’

Christian Dingwall, partner at healthcare law firm Hempsons, agreed that when setting up private companies there may be issues with VAT and pensions that may make it prohibitively expensive and cited social enterprises as examples where this had been found.

He added that the government was most unlikely to introduce preferential VAT terms to enable such switches but suggested there might be room for manoeuvre on pensions.

Mr Dingwall said that the government may extend pension availability where firms were NHS-funded rather than part of the NHS family as now.

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