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17.03.17

‘Extreme’ plan to replace 7,500 GPs with superhubs worrying for patients, says RCGP

Concern has been raised around the government’s proposed plan to replace 7,500 GP surgeries with 1,500 ‘superhubs’, after junior health minister David Mowat told MPs that the government was looking to implement the change.

Using a model of care centred around superhubs is part of an effort by the government to improve access to GPs at weekends and will mean that patients can access a range of services, including GPs, in one place.

“We are finding that things are working better with GP practices being put into hubs of 35,000 to 40,000 people. They are able to employ pharmacists and physios and do more things at scale than they could as a single GP practice or as a practice of two or three GPs, which has historically been the norm,” said Mowat.

“We are migrating over time from a position where we have 7,500 GP practices to one with something more like 1,500 super-hubs.”

But the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has argued that the “extreme” move is worrying, and that the government had to do more to convince patients that decisions were being taken in their best interests.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RGCP, said: “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.

“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, she added, in order to best meet the needs of their local population.

The RCGP also asked the government to publish the long-term evaluation of innovative schemes where general practice and wider primary care are already working at scale, so that the organisation could “properly gauge the impact it is having on patient care, as well as the wider NHS, before we encourage widespread and wholesale change”.

“We'd also like our patients to be reassured that GPs are working in their best interests, and any changes to the way we work will only be made with improving patient care at a time when the health service is under great pressure, in mind,” Stokes-Lampard concluded.

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