On 1 April GPs from 38 practices serving a population of 360,000 patients across Ipswich and Suffolk have formed a federation - Suffolk GP Federation. Suffolk Federation is formed from four existing GP practices in the region previously established in the practice based commissioning days. According to its chair Dr Tim Reed the federation will be a not-for-profit community interest company open to all practices and governed by a members' agreement. Dr Reed commented in a Pulsetoday article that the practices that make up the federation had decided to group together to 'overcome the weaknesses inherent in the cottage industry model of traditional primary care'.
GP federations are not a new concept - they were first conceived in 2007 by the Royal College of General Practitioners in The RCGP Roadmap. It described a model where practices would work together more closely to share resources expertise and services either to commission and/or provide services. Later the RCGP published 'A GP Federation Toolkit' in 2010 for GP practices thinking about developing a federation.
It is likely that more GP practices will consider the benefits of operating in federations as practices look to reduce costs and increase income. Whilst there are challenges to 'federating' there are benefits. These are discussed at length in the 'toolkit':
- to strengthen clinical governance and improve the quality and safety of services to develop training and education capacity.
- strengthening the capacity of practices to develop and tender for new services out of hospital.
- to make efficiency savings/economies of scale for example in back office functions or the procurement of practice services.
- to improve local service integration across practices and other providers.
To read the full article 'How we established a 40-practice federation to compete for bigger contracts' go to: http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk.