Foundation trust sparks GP takeover fears

A leading foundation trust has sparked fears of a 'takeover' of general practice after details were revealed of its plans to create an integrated primary care organisation.

Dr George Rae: takeover would not benefit primary care (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr George Rae: takeover would not benefit primary care (Photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

The chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network (FTN) described Northumbria Foundation Trust’s plans as a ‘takeover’ of practices.

A local GP leader warned that any such move would not be to the benefit of primary care.

A trust spokeswoman denied there was a ‘takeover’. Chief executive Jim Mackey said the trust had launched Northumbria Primary Care to provide back office support for GPs.

One local LMC said it found out about plans for the trust to launch a primary care limited company this month.

Red flags raised

GPC member and secretary of Newcastle and North Tyneside LMC Dr George Rae said talk of a ‘takeover’ raised ‘red flags’.

‘The fact that those words are being used in certain quarters as far as secondary care is concerned, that is disconcerting,’ he said.

The LMC is due to meet trust leaders to discuss the plans. ‘We will be saying that what must not be the scenario, is a takeover,’ said Dr Rae.

FTN chief executive Chris Hopson told a conference the threat of a worsening financial situation in the NHS meant there was a need to move rapidly towards different models of care delivery.

He gave the example of Northumbria FT, which he said was about to ‘take over’ practices.

‘Northumbria are doing some really interesting things,’ he said. They had encouraged practices to form federations, and were providing a ‘whole host of back office services - HR, IT, medical insurance’.

Integration plans

‘They've now gone to the next stage and effectively now they're about to take over, at the request of GPs, actual primary care surgeries, so they are creating an integrated organisation that will provide not just acute and community care, but primary care, all from within the same organisation.’

There would be ‘greater moves’ toward this and other models, said Mr Hopson.

Northumbria has been seen as a leader in integration of primary and acute services, previously setting up a GP-led joint venture company to provide general practice service.

Local LMC leaders are due to meet FT leaders and GPs close to the plans.

‘What must not be the scenario, is a takeover,’ said Dr Rae. ‘Vertical integration must be done with the best of intentions and absolutely no long-term view that it is a takeover. That would not be to the benefit of primary care.’

Northumbria FT chief executive Jim Mackey said: ‘We are in the early stages of working closely with GPs to design a range of services which are uniquely placed to support practices’ day-to-day business needs.

‘All support will be provided on a tiered approach, ensuring that GPs and practices have control of the level of support delivered.’

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