West Midlands hospital trust takes over its ninth GP practice

Nine GP practices have been subcontracted to a West Midlands hospital trust as part of a 'vertical integration' scheme, with a further practice set to follow, the trust has announced.

Hospital integration (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Hospital integration (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust (RWT), which already had responsibility for eight practices across the area, has confirmed it had took on an additional surgery in June.

The Dr Bilas Surgery - a single-handed practice run by Dr Roman Bilas - in Wolverhampton becomes the ninth practice to join the trust. RWT now provides primary care services to around 100,000 patients in total.

The hospital trust also told GPonline that a further practice was currently going through the due diligence process.

Vertical integration

The Wolverhampton trust's vertical integration programme began in 2016, bringing together hospital, community and GP services in an effort to improve patient care and experience.

The programme, led by director of integration Sultan Mahmud, asks practices to give up their independent contractor status and become subcontracted to the hospital. GP partners who join the scheme must also become salaried employees of the trust.

At one point, the trust was responsible for 10 practices and had ambitions to expand the number of practices on its books to 18.

But in April RWT announced that the number of practices it was responsible had fallen to eight after GPs dropped out.

Integration

Dr Bilas said: 'We are delighted to be working with RWT and I’m confident that our patients will see the benefit from this joined-up approach.

'We hope that by enhancing the relationship between the practice and the trust that our patients receive the appropriate care and attention, particularly now as many of them are living with multiple conditions and often require support from a number of different teams; working together is therefore paramount.'

RWT chief executive David Loughton said: 'Working in partnership with GPs and colleagues from health and social care, we can ensure a positive experience for patients as they move between us – making decisions collaboratively so the care offered is consistent and meeting their individual needs.

‘I’m really pleased to welcome Dr Bilas and the team to the trust; I look forward to working with them more closely.’

Workforce

The hospital trust says it has created an additional 70,000 appointments and brought in physician associates, clinical pharmacists and other allied health professionals through the integration scheme.

RWT says clinicians at its surgeries are freed up to spend more time enhancing patient pathways and developing new models of care by the wider support offered to them as they form part of a bigger organisation.

However, such schemes have been criticised by GP leaders in the past, who warn that heavyweight financial backing from hospitals for a select few could leave other practices unable to compete.

'The trust budget in Wolverhampton is 10 times that of primary care, and so it wields a lot of weight and can put that behind its own practices, disadvantaging the remaining practices through sheer competitive forces,' Wolverhampton LMC medical secretary Dr Gurmit Mahay said.

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