General practitioner England

Last updated:

Call to reduce risks to GP partners

GP surgery, Derry, Northern Ireland
18 October 2016
PARTNER PROBLEMS: The risks of being a GP partner outweigh the benefits, finds report

Opportunities to reduce risks and liabilities in general practice must be explored if the GP partnership model is to survive, a report has found.

Greater flexibility and openness to new business models should be shown to encourage more GPs to become partners, according to the findings of a review conducted by Wessex local medical committee chair Nigel Watson.

Published today, the report warns that partner GPs are falling as a proportion of the general practice workforce and highlights a 2018 study by the King’s Fund, which reveals only 37 per cent of GP trainees intend to enter partnerships.

The report states: ‘The risks of being a partner are now considered by some GPs to be significantly greater than the benefits, particularly in relation to the unlimited liability of the basic partnership model.

‘Some GPs have no plans to join partnerships, particularly when the risks of partnerships are viewed as greater than the benefits. The review has concluded that, if nothing changes, the partnership model has no future.

‘The Government should introduce the option of GP partnerships holding a general medical services or personal medical services contract under a different legal model, such as limited liability partnerships and mutuals.’



Commenting on the report’s findings, BMA GPs committee chair Richard Vautrey said the report highlights the importance of GP partnerships to the wider health system and the risks of not giving partners greater support.

He said: ‘The partnership model is the backbone of general practice and is what has given it its strength and resilience, providing the foundation to the NHS for the last 70 years. Thus, as has been noted time and time again, if general practice fails, the whole health service crumbles around it.

‘This important report, and the support offered to it both by the health secretary and the chief executive of NHS England, provides clear backing at the highest level to the partnership model as the best way of delivering what most patients want – and that is good-quality continuity of care delivered by a locally based team, embedded within their community, who they know and trust.

‘The report rightly notes the increasing pressures placed on GP partners and the growing risks and liability they carry, and it is therefore imperative the Government takes these seriously, from backing changes to indemnity to coming forward with tangible proposals to reducing the risks inherent in owning and leasing practice premises.’


Allied assistance

The outcome of a review launched last February by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Dr Watson’s report cites seven recommendations towards making the partnership model sustainable.

These include supporting practices by increasing the numbers of allied health professionals, such as nurse practitioners, and working within communities through the establishment of primary-care networks.

It also recommends making changes to medical education to put more focus on working in general practice.

Read the GP partnership review: final report

Read more from Tim Tonkin and follow on Twitter.