LMC welcomes hospital takeover of struggling GP practice as 'best solution'

LMC leaders have said the takeover of a GP practice by a vanguard hospital trust - which now runs four surgeries and is in talks over eight more - is the 'best solution' in the circumstances.

Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust announced it had taken over its fourth local practice through its Symphony Healthcare Services (SHS) integration subsidiary.

The 13,000-patient Highbridge Medical Centre will now be run by SHS, with its PMS contract held by a GP nominated by the company. GPs at the practice are expected to be salaried under the new arrangement, as at SHS’s other practices.

SHS said it had been providing support to the troubled practice since it was rated inadequate by the CQC in 2016, including help to recruit new GPs and practice staff.

Since its involvement SHS said the practice had reopened its list and restarted minor operations and joint injections services.

Minor surgery

SHS is the operating company of the South Somerset Symphony Programme PACS (primary and acute care system) vanguard, which is integrating secondary and primary care through a collaboration between trust, practices, commissioners and the local authority.

An SHS spokeswoman said the company was ‘currently in the final stages of the integration process' with two further practices, while integration talks were 'at varying stages of development' with another six.

Somerset LMC medical director Dr Harry Yoxall told GPonline that while the independent contractor model remained the best model for general practice ‘in an ideal world’, this takeover was the ‘best solution’ for the practice and patients in the circumstances.

The practice, he said, had suffered ongoing recruitment problems following a number of retirements. The LMC, alongside the CCG, NHS England and practice federation had considered a number of solutions but agreed this was the best outcome to ensure the practice sustainability.

Dr Yoxall said GPs in Somerset did not view the move as a ‘takeover’ of general practice by the hospital sector. ‘Somerset is a different sort of place and we tend to have this very collaborative view’, he said.

GP integration

In future, he added, there would be ‘mixed picture’ of general practice in the county, with some larger independent practices, and others with some form of integration with the hospital-led organisation. All three foundation trusts in the county now have some form of integration with local practices, while the longer term plan for the county is to move towards accountable care arrangements.

The LMC, added Dr Yoxall, would rather see practice mergers with NHS trusts than the growth of commercial providers.

SHS managing director Mandy Seymour-Hanbury said: ‘Over the last few months, we have been able to offer extra support for the team at Highbridge to help recruit additional GPs and healthcare teams. Working together, we have been able to address some of the most important development areas as highlighted through the CQC and focus on improving the stability of services available at the medical centre.’

Interim associate medical director at Highbridge practice, Dr Harvey Sampson added: ‘We have a clear plan of action and have already made some excellent progress. We would like to thank our staff, patients and the local community for their support and patience as we make the necessary changes to develop a high quality and sustainable service for all.’

NHS England south west director of assurance and delivery said: ‘We are reassured that the practice will have Symphony Healthcare Services coming on board to help the practice make a turnaround from a difficult period. SHS have a proven track record of bringing about sustainable change and this will bring high quality and reliable services to the patients of Highbridge.’

Photo: iStock

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