LMCs conference 2014: GPC urged to support practice federations

The GPC should actively support the development of practice federations and encourage opportunities for every GP to be actively involved, LMCs have said.

LMC conference: federations backed (Photo: Pete Hill)
LMC conference: federations backed (Photo: Pete Hill)

The proposal was put forward by Northern Ireland LMCs, where the GPC has already begun setting up federations.

Northern Ireland GPC deputy chairman Dr Alan Stout told the conference that the motion was about providing solutions to problems LMCs had been discussing in other sessions.

Northern Ireland’s model was about ‘building strength in primary care and about a parallel service to start to address some of the problems we've heard about already today’, he said.

It involved protecting groups of practices from unresourced work, maximising GMS by ensuring work is provided within primary care where possible, providing protection from alternative providers and developing additional services beyond traditional primary care, known in Northern Ireland as GMS-plus.

‘We feel this is an important and essential additional to the future sustainability of primary care,' said Dr Stout.

But several GPs opposed the motion.

Dr Una Duffy from Bedfordshire LMC said she was ‘concerned about how GPs are being pushed into forming federations without full evaluation of the risks and benefits for individual practices'.

There was an assumption that federations were a good thing, she said, but she had seen no clear benefit for patients or GPs.

Dr Rob Bailey from Cambridgeshire said while federations may be working well and the right thing for Northern Ireland that was not to say it would be right for England.

'Until we have some consistency in understanding what federation is, how can we encourage GPs to get involved?' he added.

Dr Thomas Kinloch from Mid Mersey said federations could lead to the loss of GPs'  independent contractor status and the 'end of general practice as we know it'.

And Dr Tim Morton from Norfolk and Waveney LMC spoke about the experience of practices setting up the recently formed Iceni Healthcare federation of 106 practices, which was facilitated by the LMC.

He said federations would need considerable support from the GPC.

Dr Stout told critics that federations should be about ‘seizing local control and not having it led from above’.

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