Is consolidation in primary care necessary for survival?

Regular readers of this blog will have read posts regarding the new NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No.2) Regulations 2013, and may share concerns regarding the scope of Regulation 5 suggesting that there is only one circumstance in which it is not necessary to advertise contract opportunities (namely where there is only one capable provider).

Many GP practices are concerned that this requirement will lead to the majority (if not all) primary care contracts being advertised: allowing competition from the private sector.

In some areas GP practices are coming together to form companies in order to compete with the large engine-rooms in organisations such as Virgin Care and Care UK.  The thought is that these larger companies of GP practice may be able to submit bids on behalf of practices localities and federations as well as in their own right and thereby compete more effectively with the larger commercial entities entering the primary care market.

But will such consolidation help?  Granted on the one hand a larger organisation may povide much needed support to small practices when it comes to submitting bids but does it also come at a price?  Will such a company protect the interests of member practices or exploit them to further its own interests?  The extent to which any member practice can continue to operate autonomously once a member of a larger organisation remains uncertain.

So whilst consolidation may help with contract retention rates practices should consider whether the support on offer outweighs the risks to their independence.

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