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An NHS foundation trust in Birmingham has taken over two GP surgeries and will soon run another from June.
Great Bridge Health Centre and Lyndon Health Centre are now run by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, in conjunction with Your Health Partnership, which runs more than 50 surgeries in the Midlands and Shropshire.
The takeover, which took place on 1 May, came after the previous private provider, Malling Health, chose not to rebid for the APMS contract according to GP leaders.
From 1 June, the trust will also manage the newly-named Heath Street Health Centre, currently known as Summerfield GP and Urgent Care Practice and run by Virgin Care.
Sandwell and West Birmingham LMC secretary Dr Robert Morley said the takeovers were as a result of the ‘parlous state of general practice’ and stressed ‘this isn’t a case of GP practices choosing to go into partnership with the secondary care sector’.
They said the move could also put the trust in an ‘extremely powerful position’ to become involved with primary care networks – new groupings of practices covering 30,000 to 50,000 patients.
The combined patient list sizes of the three practices is around 15,000.
Dr Morley said: ‘Quite clearly, the commercial sector isn’t able to make the profits it wishes to out of general practice. Clearly the foundation trust saw this as an opportunity [to integrate care].
‘Practices have enough on their plate trying to survive. Given the current parlous state of general practice, the inevitable happens and a local foundation trust, with ambitions to extend the range of its activities, has been successful.’
He added: ‘This isn’t a case of GP practices choosing to go into partnership with the secondary care sector, but this is an inevitable outcome of the process of causing disruption to the system.
‘Back in the day, it was PCTs by procuring new practices in certain areas that were said to be under-doctored.
‘It’s just been one deleterious consequence after another, and this is latest one of secondary care getting their foot in the door to run general practice.’
Dr Morley also said; ‘The practices run by the foundation trusts will indeed be part of a network so it will give the trusts a major foothold within the PCNs and put them in an extremely powerful position.’
A Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust spokesperson said: ‘Running general practices affords us the opportunity to test out innovative ways of delivering population health management and long-term condition care.’
The trust’s chief executive, Toby Lewis, said: ‘The new arrangements are a chance to do, to learn and to build trust. We want to move fast to provide the very best long-term conditions care for children and for adults that redefine traditional home and hospital boundaries.’
Your Health Partnership executive partner Dr Simon Mitchell said: ‘We have a well-established relationship with the trust and believe the opportunity to work together in this way will create lots of exciting new ways to improve the health of the patients whilst continuing to deliver great quality general practice.’
Hospital takeovers have been taking place in other parts of the country with varying results.
Last year, the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust took over a 5,000-patient GP practice, making it the ninth practice to come under the running of the hospital – which now has 70,000 GP patients and employs 43 GPs.
But last summer Northumbria NHS Foundation Trust was forced to close a 5,000-patient GP practice because of ‘significant difficulties’ recruiting GPs and an ‘over-reliance’ on locums.
This story was first published by our sister publication Pulse.