GPs back partnership model as 'only' option for primary care

LMC leaders have backed the partnership model as the 'only' option for primary care and called for financial incentives and training schemes to help recruit partners.

GP partnership review chair Dr Nigel Watson (Photo: JH Lancy)

Following a debate on partnerships at the 2018 England LMCs conference in London, a majority of GPs voted to 'agree' or 'strongly agree' with the statement that ‘the partnership model: small, large or in networks, is the only model of primary care that the profession will support’.

LMC delegates also overwhelmingly voted for the creation of ‘financial incentives solely available to partners', and for ‘a funded training scheme for GPs wishing to become partners’.

Speaking ahead of the debate, GP partnership review chair Dr Nigel Watson told the conference that the partnership model ‘has served our communities, patients and NHS well for over 70 years and remains the most cost effective way of delivering quality care for the future’.

GP partners

The debate came just a day after figures from NHS Digital revealed that numbers of GP partners remain in freefall - with more than 200 full-time equivalent partners lost to the profession in the past three months alone.

One GP partner from Nottinghamshire LMC taking part in the debate described the partnership model as the ‘foundation and bedrock of general practice, which is the foundation and bedrock of the NHS’, and warned that losing the model would be a ‘tragedy’.

Many GPs speaking at the conference warned that partnerships had become unattractive in their current form, highlighting problems with workforce, workload and pay.

A GP from Hertfordshire said partnerships had become a ‘difficult and emotional job with intense demands’, and argued that the model needed to be ‘empowered with funding streams simplified’ if it is to be saved.

Government 'not listening'

Dr Jackie Applebee, chair of Tower Hamlets LMC, said that something needed to be done to ‘reverse the rot that is driving [GPs] away from the partnership model’. She warned that the government had not listened to general practice for years and may not listen when recommendations from the partnership review emerge - and warned that the GPC needed to set out its 'red lines'.

Another Devon GP told the conference: ‘I do worry that there is a blinkered approach that wants to cling onto this partnership model even when it’s blatantly not working.’

Closing the debate, Dr Watson said there was a clear need for ‘substantial change’ within the partnership model. Recommendations from his independent review will be published early in the new year, he told the conference.

Interim findings were published last month in which Dr Watson warned that the government needed to incentivise partnerships over locum and salaried roles.

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