STRUCTURE: GPs in Birmingham will launch what is thought to be the largest ever ‘super partnership’ in the NHS next month, merging at least 35 practices into a single organisation.

  • Former Heart of England chief helms GP partnership
  • Our Health Partnership to have 150 partners and covers 275,000 population
  • Practices retain independence but share administrative functions
  • LMC prefers the model to foundation trust or corporate takeover

Our Health Partnership (OHP) will launch at the beginning of November, and is initially being led by Mark Newbold, the former chief executive of Heart of England Foundation Trust.

The organisation will bring together 150 GP partners from 35 practices, along with 50 salaried GPs. They have a combined registered list of 275,000. It is believed this will make it the largest single partnership providing primary care in the English NHS. More practices are understood to be considering joining the organisation.

Mark Newbold

Mark Newbold is currently the partnership’s interim managing director

The practices are overwhelmingly within Birmingham CrossCity Clinical Commissioning Group, and account for a third of its membership.

Partners and salaried GPs will keep working in their current surgeries, which will continue to be run locally rather than centrally.

While a single partnerships will be established, the contracts for each formerly independent practice will remain separate. Accounting will be done centrally, with each local practice operating as a profit centre within the larger partnership. If a site is unprofitable, OHP partners will decide how to intervene.

Assets such as buildings will not be pooled, and will be owned by the local partners.

OHP aims to make general practice more efficient and free up GP time by conducting functions such as recruitment, purchasing and administration at scale. It also plans to have a pool of locums that local practices will be able to use.

The model is stronger than a federation, in which the partnerships remain separate, but not as centralised as the models pioneered in north Birmingham by Vitality Partnership – now known as Modality Partnership – or Lakeside in Northamptonshire.

Mr Newbold resigned from Heart of England late last year after Monitor placed conditions on the trust’s license. He is currently OHP’s interim managing director, but told HSJ he would be interested in making his position permanent.

He said his knowledge of the wider NHS would be useful to OHP: “I will be helping out on the strategic development side. GPs are used to running small organisations, but this is quite different. Being part of an organisation that’s run by a board is new, and I can help them with that.”

He said the governance model supported “local, independently contracted, partner based general practice”. He added: “There was no will [among members] to put control in the centre or adopt a salaried model for all GPs.”

OHP will be run by seven partners elected by the full membership, plus the managing director, a finance director and an operations director.

Birmingham CrossCity has encouraged the establishment of the partnership. The CCG has also backed Birmingham Integrated General Practice – a provider group including 90 per cent of its general practice providers, which will collectively bid for contracts on the patch. Most OHP practices are also part of BIG Practice.

Local medical committee executive secretary Bob Morley said: “The landscape of general practice has changed very radically in the last 10 years.

“Practices can evolve or will become extinct – they have to look to working in large business models in order to survive.

“Either GPs still lead [as with OHP] or we have alternatives led by foundation trusts or commercial organisations.”