STRUCTURE: A foundation trust in a vanguard area is setting up a jointly owned ‘shell company’ with a local GP practice, and directly employing some primary care staff, HSJ has learned.

  • Southern Health FT and GP practice to set up “shell company” and employ primary care staff
  • First reported example of how a multispecialty community partnership could be formed
  • Deal could be first of several in southern Hampshire vanguard area

Southern Health FT, which is working to establish a multispecialty community provider in southern Hampshire, is currently finalising plans for a formal partnership with an unnamed GP practice.

The partnership arrangement does not extend to a full takeover of the practice, which has 9,500 registered patients.

However, under the arrangements 10 practice employees, including non-clinical staff, salaried GPs and two out of four GP partners, will transfer to Southern Health. The trust says their terms and conditions will be preserved.

The practice will continue to exist and employ the remaining two partners. The surgery and Southern Health will jointly own a new “shell company” which will hold the local general medical services contract. This is necessary because, as they are currently established under law, FTs are not able to hold general medical services contracts.

The new arrangements are scheduled to be completed next month.

Although Northumbria has provided one example of how a primary and acute care system could be established using existing legal structures, this is the first reported example of how an MCP could be constituted.

Katrina Percy

Trust chief executive Katrina Percy is an outspoken advocate of community providers taking the lead on integration

Southern Health is understood to be talking to other GP practices about similar arrangements, meaning this deal could be the first of several in the southern Hampshire MCP area.

The trust has referred to the project in board papers but will not name the practice involved.

However, a trust spokesman said the practice was in a “deprived” part of the area covered by the local MCP vanguard project.

He said it was “struggling to attract partners” and had approached the trust to help solve the problem.

The spokesman added: “Primary care in many areas is facing a real challenge – demand is increasing while the GP workforce is shrinking. This is a national problem but is especially acute in urban, deprived areas and in places where the patient demographic is older than the norm.

“By working together it is possible to create bigger teams with a wider range of professionals, so patients can see the right person, at the right time, with the right skills.”

Southern Health provides mental health and community services in Hampshire.

Its chief executive Katrina Percy is an outspoken advocate of community providers taking the lead in establishing integrated community and primary care provision.