Centre-right think tank Policy Exchange proposes that allowing practices to include good-will in the value of their practice could inject £3.5 billion into primary care. However, critics say this will mean retirement-age GPs 'selling out' essential health services to private companies.
Goodwill is value associated with the popularity of a practice, estimated to be worth around 50 per cent of practice turnover. The sale of goodwill is currently banned in the NHS.
Policy Exchange's report Which Doctor? Putting Patients in Control of Primary Care recommends lifting the ban and says this could increase the value of a 10,500-patient practice by £160,000.
The report says that the sale of goodwill could also be used as a bargaining tool to incentivise partners to engage in practice-based commissioning.
NHS Alliance GMS lead Dr David Jenner said the report read 'like a privatisation manifesto' and would lead to more private investors buying up and trading practices.
'The private sector cannot build up and trade practices because there is little money in it. Allowing GPs to sell goodwill could commoditise general practice and mean doctors selling out to private companies.
'I expect it would be welcomed by retirement-age doctors. But we should be wary of selling off essential public services to the private sector.'
The think tank also recommends patients are forced to re-register with their GP every two to five years to encourage competition between practices.
Dr Jenner said the proposals were unlikely to be taken seriously by Labour but could influence Conservative policy.
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said that selling goodwill could increase the value of practices so much that it would be hard for young GPs to buy into partnerships.