GP partnership model 'can be saved', says RCGP chair

The partnership model of general practice can be saved - but in some parts of the country it may be too late, the RCGP chair has said.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard (Photo: Pete Hill)

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said that senior politicians realised the value of the partnership model, which is why they had backed the current review being led by Wessex LMC chief executive Dr Nigel Watson.

‘It’s about reinvigorating the partnership model, it’s not just a review,’ Professor Stokes-Lampard said. ‘It’s about what it would take to reinvigorate and encourage people to consider partnership. It’s very constructive and positive.'

'I do think [the partnership model] is salvageable,' she added.

However she acknowledged that there were parts of the country where the partnership model has effectively gone - and that those areas were having to look at new ways of delivering care, including hospitals running practices.

Hospital takeover

GPonline reported last month that a Midlands scheme in which a hospital trust could take over 18 practices had attracted interest from NHS organisations across England keen to copy it.

Professor Stokes-Lampard's comments come just days after an interim report from the partnership review warned that the government must incentivise partnership roles over locum work.

The RCGP chair, who was speaking at a Q&A session at the college's annual conference, said that while many younger GPs may say that they don't want to be partners, they usually mean that they 'don’t want to be partners at the start of their career, but it’s an option they want later on'.

She also said that primary care networks would enable ‘partnerships and practices to thrive’, but that the scale on which practices should come together may vary.

GP networks

‘There’s a lot of talk about 30-50,000 patients being a sensible size but that figure is not fixed,' she said. 'It has to be flexible - in some parts of the country 15-20,000 might be more appropriate, in areas with rurality; and in cities 50,000 might be too small. Working in networks will enable partnership and practices to thrive.

'In some areas it's too late for now, but we may be able to revisit it, and in some areas there may be a better way - it doesn’t have to be the partnerhsip model.

'What upsets me is a partnership that folds that didn’t want to because it didn’t get help or support. With a bit of help they could have saved the pain of it going. If people choose a different way of working that’s fine because there won’t be one size that fits all.'

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