Before any formal arrangements are set in motion, GPs should consider the reasons for establishing a GP Network and what partners hope to gain.
Protecting and maintaining the essentials of general practice as much as possible during any scheme of collaboration or when working in bigger arrangements is an extremely important consideration.
Continuity of care, the connection between GPs, practice staff and their local community, involvement of GPs in decision making and stakeholder participation in the way practices are organised as businesses should be the fundamental basis of any proposal for improving the delivery of primary care services.
Checklist of factors to consider
The following list offers some important factors GPs and their staff should think about.
- Possible benefits to patients
- Indentifying candidate practices
- Commonality and compatibility
- Openness and honesty
- Analysing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
- Relationship between partners and practice managers
- Future proofing the general practice workforce
- Joint partnership agreement – including adherence and retirement
- Corporate governance / management principles
- Profit sharing principles
- Sharing of financial results and clinical protocols
- Staff integration
- Premises arrangements – do they necessarily need to change?
- Continuing professional development (CPD)
- Job evaluation process (e.g. Agenda for Change) and
- Shared quality framework (e.g. the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Quality Practice Award)
Ref: Practice Managers First Practice Management
Before considering the pros and cons of forming a GP network, practices should enquire as to which services will soon be procured by local commissioners. This will go some way to determining whether patients will benefit from practices working together in a particular area.
Other useful tools and guidance
The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation has also published a free online tool, The Wilder Collaborations Factors Inventory, to assess how collaborative groups are doing. GPs are encouraged to access the tool as it offers a range of practical questions that can be applied when considering, planning and implementing GP network structures.
Access the Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory tool
BMA guidance to practices on how to employ shared staff
Next: Structural options available to practices