Health secretary must back GP partnerships, says Hunt

The new health secretary or his successor should affirm their support for the GP partnership model, Jeremy Hunt has told GPonline.

Health and social care select committee chair Jeremy Hunt
Health and social care select committee chair Jeremy Hunt (Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

The chair of the influential House of Commons health and social care select committee and former health secretary spoke after the committee published a report on the NHS workforce that found one in 10 GPs could retire within 18 months.

GP partnerships have become a source of contention between the government and the profession, as former health secretary Sajid Javid backed a report that called for them to end.

Mr Hunt said remarks by Mr Javid had caused disquiet among GPs that now needed to be addressed - warning that general practice was key to the long-term future of the NHS.

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Which parts of England are losing GP partners fastest?

‘There was some ambiguity about whether the previous health secretary was committed to the partnership model and the next health secretary needs to clear that up,’ Mr Hunt said.

The committee led by Mr Hunt heard earlier this year that GP partnerships were 'collapsing like a Jenga stack' amid uncertainty created by reports that Mr Javid wanted to nationalise general practice.

In May the BMA’s GP committee voted in favour of a motion emphasising its support for the contractor model of general practice, warning that primary care networks were an ‘existential threat’ to partnerships - and rejecting any proposal to move to an all-salaried service.

The select committee chair’s call for a robust defence of GP partnerships comes as Dr Helen Fuller, author of the Fuller Stocktake report and senior responsible officer of the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System, suggested they could be scrapped in parts of the country.

GP partnerships

Mr Hunt, however, spoke out strongly in favour of the model. ‘The partnership model leads to innovation. I’m a supporter of it because it allows local solutions for local problems,’ he said.

‘There’s been lots of discussion about whether or not the NHS is sustainable because of the large share of public spending it takes. Prevention is better than cure and GPs are the prevention agenda. They’re key to how the NHS is run in the long term.’

General practice in England has lost more than 2,000 full-time equivalent GP partners in the past three years alone - continuing a steady slump that has seen the loss of more than a fifth of partners between September 2015 and March 2022.

A DHSC official told the health and social care select committee earlier this month that it was not the department's policy to phase out GP partnerships.

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