Editorial: Don't undervalue the GP partnership model

This month, Scotland voted against independence. The no vote was ultimately more emphatic than the polling closest to the ballot suggested.

'Losing the GP partnership model and GPs' independent contractor status would further stoke the suspicion that the NHS is simply being privatised by stealth.'
'Losing the GP partnership model and GPs' independent contractor status would further stoke the suspicion that the NHS is simply being privatised by stealth.'

What have we learned? It was only in the final few weeks of the campaign, when the first poll showed that yes was leading no, that the big guns were wheeled out. Westminster decamped en masse north of the border and big business started making dire financial warnings.

Do politicians really always leave action to the last moment if it looks like their desired outcome is not to be achieved?

The most popular story of this month by far on our website GPonline is the one that graced the cover of our previous issue: the GP partnership model could disappear in a decade and primary care be provided by organisations the size of CCGs, according to the deputy medical director of NHS England, former GP Dr Mike Bewick.

GP leaders reacted angrily, warning that independent contractor GPs were the bedrock of the NHS and scrapping partnerships would drive up NHS costs and could leave the health service unsustainable. A GPonline poll found our readers agreed: at the time of writing, 60% thought the GP partnership model had a future. Our Your Views page offers more reasons why (page 30).

It is undeniable that fewer medical students are choosing a career in general practice, but surely this is an argument for making the profession more attractive, if the coalition government is serious in its intent of pulling work out of hospitals and making more care available closer to patients' homes?

Enabling partnership opportunities to continue, with the continuity of care inherent in such organisations, depends in part on the willingness of partners to maintain such a model.

But whichever party is in power, it must also create a climate where such opportunities are financially viable (see analysis, pages 27 and 28) and this includes enabling funding for premises.

Losing the GP partnership model and GPs' independent contractor status would further stoke the suspicion that the NHS is simply being privatised by stealth.

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