GP federations are growing across England, says RCGP study

Data from some 50% of CCGs and 10% of GP practices in England show numbers of federations are growing, with a 'significant percentage' formed in the past 12 months.

Dr Mike Holmes
Dr Mike Holmes

RCGP clinical lead for the supporting federations programme Dr Mike Holmes will present the findings, from a study of practice collaboration, to the RCGP conference in Glasgow this week.

The research aims to give a better understanding of federations and will be used by the college to develop new support tools for practices wanting to work together.

Dr Holmes said that among practices not yet in federations, 60% say they are considering forming their own. A BMA poll earlier this year suggested about 40% of GPs currently work in federations.

CCGs could provide financial support to help practices work collaboratively, said Dr Holmes, although some may lack the capacity to do this because of their workload pressures. Local commissioners in some areas have been proactively organising practices into federations, the research found.

CCGs could pay for federation infrastructure

Dr Holmes is a partner at the 50,000-patient Haxby Group practice in Yorkshire, covering 10 surgeries, and associate medical director at Hull CCG.

He suggested local commissioners could pay for legal and IT support, or double-running services while new ones are established, to help federations develop. ‘I would hope to see CCGs take an active role. Our data suggests that is happening,’ he said.

Dr Holmes said the college would ‘welcome with caution’ incentives put in place by commissioners to encourage practices to develop federations. ‘Federations may not be the answer everywhere, so if that were to happen, I wouldn’t want to see practices who chose not to federate be dis­advantaged,’ he warned.

Practices should be free to decide whether federating is best for them, Dr Holmes said, but could all be part of some form of collaborative arrangement eventually.

‘What we are hearing from those who have federated is that there are benefits, both in terms of patient care and business efficiency.’

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