Former RCGP chairman urges GP practices to federate faster

General practice has failed to move quickly enough in forming federations over the past decade, a former RCGP chairman has warned.

Dr Lakhani: all practices should move into federations to improve care (Photo: Rob Clayton)
Dr Lakhani: all practices should move into federations to improve care (Photo: Rob Clayton)

Dr Mayur Lakhani, college chairman from 2004 to 2007, said support for federations had been 'encouraging' since he called for wider adoption of the model in an RCGP report.

But Dr Lakhani said all practices should move into federations to improve and broaden care for patients.

Progress is too slow and many practices are missing out on the opportunities it could offer them, he said.

Dr Lakhani was lead author of The Future Direction of General Practice, an RCGP report released in 2007. He describes federations - first advocated officially in his report - as 'the leading new idea in the past 10 years about the future of general practice'.

'Federations are definitely the way to improve care, but also to support GPs,' he told GP. 'I think quality of care will improve, there will be more resources available and GPs could become providers of many more services if they get their act together and form a legal network.'

Federations could be only option

He warned that there was 'no other option' if practices wanted to survive in future, and practices failing to federate could face being forcibly merged by the government if they missed this chance.

But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'What works for one group of practices may not be suitable for others. In some areas, single large practices are forming, while in others, many smaller practices are developing ways to network with one another.'

The GPC is not opposed to the move, however. He added: 'We do encourage practices to consider working together. We also produced guidance on this last year.'

Dr Lakhani said that in his vision, there was a distinction between the 'GP as the personal doctor' and the 'federation as a provider'.

'The GP can do the personal doctoring and the federation provides services like blood tests and counselling. That's a powerful distinction.'

Dr Lakhani said linking practices together should be just a first step. Step two could seek to combine general practice with community services, and step three, to involve social services and the voluntary sector.

Read more: Dr Lakhani on why GPs would be wrong to help patients end their lives

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