• GP super partnership already “custodian” of new network funds for developing PCNs
  • Has offered to fill that role elsewhere but won’t foist its services on other network members

A GP super partnership is setting itself up to run the bank and back office services for new primary care networks in England, its chief executive has told HSJ.

Modality Partnership, the giant GP organisation with sites across England, will act as the “custodian of [network] funds” and has offered to do the same for other developing PCNs which include its member practices, Vincent Sai told HSJ in an interview.

“We are in many, many networks, given our scale, and we are excited about that because we will work with others,” irrespective of whether they join Modality, he said.

Modality is run by a single large GP partnership supported by a centralised back office team in Birmingham.

There has been debate about how Modality and other providers whose practices are spread widely across large areas will work with new NHS England primary care network policy, which requires a network’s members to be in the same locality.

Mr Sai said the company would use its experience of working at scale to lead the development of some PCNs. PCNs are eligible in coming years to receive funding from commissioners for a range of new staff and additional services.

“We’re already doing it in Walsall,” he said. “For the networks with the contracts, we’re leading, we are playing the custodian of those [network] funds.”

The company has seven partners in the Walsall area of the West Midlands, he said. “Modality is leading on two of them because we are the larger practices in that footprint.

“We are also in the other five [Walsall networks], we have one [member] site in each, and what we are doing there is making sure the right leadership is in place for the network. And it doesn’t have to be a Modality partner to be the lead, it needs to make sense for the colleagues on the ground.”

Mr Sai spoke to HSJ after Modality added four more practices to its roster, developing a new division in mid Sussex.

There, the company has three sites in and around the town of East Grinstead. “Obviously three sites out of four in total in East Grinstead will obviously be the PCN, working with the other practice that’s not in our network,” he said.

“Then I have [a practice in] Burgess Hill on its own there, [which] should work with others [GPs] in Burgess Hill to make the best of what’s right for the population.”

Mr Sai could not say how many PCNs he thought would take up Modality’s offer to be the designated payee and administrator for PCNs, because networks are at an early stage

“I don’t know what the numbers will be for sure, but the offer is there only when it makes sense,” he said. Mr Sai recognised that “there is a lot of concern, especially [in] areas where a [GP] federation is more established, and they say, ‘Hang on, are you competing against the federation? Where will the federation go?’”

He added: ”If the local practices believe the federation is the right vehicle, we would support it,” he explained. “But if it makes sense for us to help host different things, we’re open to that. But we’ll do it in consultation with our colleagues, respecting the history and politics of it.”