Somerset GP practice converts to John Lewis-style employee-ownership model

A GP practice in Somerset has become the first in England to operate as a John Lewis-style employee-owned trust.

The team at Minehead Medical Centre
The team at Minehead Medical Centre

The Minehead Medical Centre said the advantage of the employee-owned trust model was that it gives GPs and other staff a say in how it is run.

The new model will allow practice staff to develop leadership skills without having to become partners and any profits would be reinvested into the practice to improve services, training and wages, the practice said.

In common with other GP practices in rural areas, Minehead Medical Centre had found it difficult to recruit more staff. One of the reasons behind its decision to become an employee-owned trust was to help boost recruitment by making the practice a more attractive place for staff to work and develop their careers.

GP Dr Ed Ford, who led the development of the employee-owned trust, said: 'We have a fantastic management team and wider staff team, so partners at the practice felt we should give them more control of the business.

'We also wanted to ensure that the business structure shouldn't rely on individuals holding shares that could be difficult to transfer if people wanted to leave - hence the idea of becoming an employee-owned trust.'

Employee-owned trusts

Employee-owned trusts, which were introduced in 2014, aim to promote employee ownership by allowing business owners to sell their shares to an employee owned trust free from capital gains tax. Employees do not have direct share ownership of a company, instead a controlling interest in it is transferred to an all-employee trust which is then held for the benefit of employees.

Dr Ford said: 'Employee-owned trust offers GP practices an alternative, more flexible operational model; offering staff a greater say in how GP practices are run and opportunities for the team to evelop their careers by having a greater leadership role, without needing to have the funds to invest as a partner.'.

A spokesperson for NHS Somerset said the decision to agree the incorporation of the GP practice as an employee-owned trust had been subject to a robust and thorough evaluation.

The spokesperson said, ‘This is the first application for a GP to become an employee-owned trust in Somerset and we are aware that other organisations may be interested in pursuing a similar model.  We hope that this decision enables the Minehead Medical Centre to continue to provide its patients with the best possible care.’

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