• Four GP practices merge into one organisation that is part of Southern Health Foundation Trust
  • Move is part of new multispecialty community provider care model and driven by GP recruitment problems
  • Majority of 2017-18 Hampshire vanguard funding to be invested in Fareham and Gosport

Four GP practices have merged into one organisation that will be part of the largest community and mental health trust in the country.

The surgeries, which cover 40,000 patients in Gosport, Hampshire, will hold a single general medical services contract with Southern Health Foundation Trust.

Two of the practices, Brune Medical Centre and Forton Medical Centre, became part of Southern Health last year, while Waterside Medical Centre and Stoke Road Medical Centre joined this year.

The merger comes as health leaders in the area aim to push on with developing a fully integrated multispecialty community provider care model in Fareham and Gosport, where the majority of Hampshire’s 2017-18 vanguard funding will be invested, HSJ has been told.

The merged organisation, called the Willow Group, was set up after falling GP numbers led to many Gosport practices coming under increased pressure.

Asked if GPs would become salaried Southern Health employees, a trust spokesman said: “We call it an employed model. There are a number of employment contracts available to GPs within this model. A GP partner, working as a partner with Southern Health with responsibility for the development of the practice, and a salaried GP with the responsibility of a traditional salaried GP.”

Becoming part of Southern Health has brought back-office support to the practices, in areas such as project management, human resources, technology and governance, the spokesman said.

“It has enabled closer working with clinicians from community services… and through a wider care team being accessible via the four practices,” he added.

“It has also enabled the pooling of existing resources to make them go further.

“Combined, these benefits have helped to offset the continuing recruitment challenges while delivering tangible benefits for patients.”

Stuart Morgan, a GP and the Willow Group’s clinical lead, said: “This is a positive move for patients, as we are addressing the difficult situation we have been facing in Gosport in the past 18 months in terms of GP recruitment.”

The trust spokesman said other surgeries would “choose what is right for them”, when asked if the trust is in discussions with other practices over the development of the vanguard.

He added: “A mixed economy can work. Looking to the future the MCP model is now embedded within the local STP, and it is likely that this model will be adopted by one or more of the emerging STP local delivery systems.

“A focus now is on ensuring that these systems are able to benefit from the learning and progress made through the Better Local Care vanguard.”