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GP leader urges caution over ‘super-hub’ general practice

Plans to turn 7,500 GP practices into 1,500 super-hubs

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 17 March 2017

The head of the RCGP has today urged caution over government plans to create 1,500 “super-hubs” of general practice in England from the existing 7,500 practices in the country.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP chair, was responding to comments made earlier this week by health minister David Mowat.

Mr Mowat, speaking during a parliamentary debate held on 15 March on the issue of the cost of GP indemnity in England, referred to the possibility of GP practices becoming gradually more centralised in the future.

During the debate, Mr Mowat said: “Increasingly across the country, we’re finding that it’s working better by putting GP practices into hubs of 35,000-40,000 people. They're able to do more things at scale than perhaps they’d be able to do as smaller practices.

“We’re migrating over a period of time to a position in which – there are 7,500 GP practices around the country – to something more like 1,500 of these super-hubs. But the contract position hasn’t caught up with that, and that’s a long road.”

The RCGP’s chair Professor Stokes-Lampard said that any changes to the way GPs worked had to be in the best interests of patients.

“Our population is growing and changing, with our patients living longer and increasingly with multiple, long-term conditions, so we certainly need to explore and adopt different ways of working in order to best deal with these changes - but the magnitude and pace of the change being floated here seems extreme,” she said.

“The college supports the use of new models of care, including GP surgeries working together in federations or merging, similar to what is being described here, where they can pool resources and share expertise in the best interests of patient care.

“But we also recognise that these new ways of working won’t work everywhere, or for everyone. It's important that GP practices have the autonomy to choose the way in which they work and the services they provide, to best meet the needs of their local population as these GPs are the people best placed to make that decision.”

It was also important, she added, to see the long-term evaluation of innovative schemes where general practice and wider primary care were already working at scale published before encouraging widespread changes.

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