STRUCTURE: Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust is set to take over the “full ownership” of two GP practices, it has said, and is offering to run others.

The organisation already provides acute, community and social care services, and some minor primary care services in a joint venture with GPs.

Chief executive Jim Mackey told HSJ it had agreed with two practices, which it is not yet naming, that it would begin running them through a subsidiary company called Northumbria Primary Care.

He said the aim was that the company would have “full ownership” of the two practices, although details of how they will be contracted had not been finalised. This was being worked through with NHS England, which commissions general practice, he said.

The FT is hoping arrangements will be in place in August, but Mr Mackey said it may take slightly longer.

Jim Mackey

More and more practices are concerned they would not be able to survive on their own, Jim Mackey said

He said the trust had also begun discussions with other practices and was, through the subsidiary, offering a range of services from “full ownership” and “full practice management”, to running human resources and payroll functions.

The move had developed from its existing work with practices and was a response to an increasing number of them having “worries about the future and [their] sustainability”, he said. More and more practices were concerned they would be unable to invest in their services or to survive on their own, Mr Mackey said.

He said some were “happy to give up a bit of the flexibility that comes with ownership” of their practice. He said the FT’s involvement in practices would improve information sharing and “joining up provision”.

Mr Mackey said Northumbria had initial discussions with competition regulator Monitor. He said those involved in the work would “demonstrate that choice will exist” and that changes will benefit patients.

Very few NHS hospital providers are currently involved in running GP practices. City Hospitals Sunderland Foundation Trust runs a practice and Newcastle Upon Tyne Foundation Trust runs three practices through a joint venture called Freeman Clinics, while University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust has said it wishes to do so.