Professional firms in partnership approach to protect rural health services

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Professional Firms

A business partnership which is providing a lifeline to health services is expanding at a rapid rate with the recruitment of more companies and increasing numbers of doctors, dentists and pharmacies.

Founder members including Hessle-based transformation specialists Agencia and national law firm Capsticks have recruited seven more businesses this year to join Primary Care Direct.

Dr Noel Tinker, Chair of the Yorkshire Health Partners federation of 10 GP surgeries stretching from Snaith to Hessle, said the partnership approach is vital for the protection of primary care services in rural areas.

He said: “We set up our own company because all the new resources and investment were going out to tender and we wanted to be bid-ready. If we don’t do this, primary care will miss out and be overtaken by larger organisations. We have to change to stay the same. The system is very London-centric and not good for areas like rural East Yorkshire.”

Yorkshire Health Partners was formed by four GP practices in 2013 and has now grown to 10 serving around 100,000 patients along the M62 corridor in East Yorkshire. As a federation it has already won bids to put five pharmacies into its practices and to deliver an extended hours service.

Dr Tinker said: “From October we will open from 8am until 8pm Monday to Friday and mornings on Saturday and Sunday. It will make a massive difference to patients.”

Those bids were won without the support of Primary Care Direct but Yorkshire Health Partners is considering working with the group on an organisational development project, and more than 120 practice managers from around Yorkshire will attend a conference sponsored by Capsticks and Lloyds Bank in Harrogate in September.

Agencia established Primary Care Direct and joined forces with Capsticks in 2016 as well as BHP Chartered Accountants and DKJ, a bid management specialist. This year the group has recruited medical defence organisation MDDUS, Lloyds Bank and Yorkshire Medical Marketing. They have also added property specialists GP Surveyors and Apollo, Shipley-based medicines optimisation company Prescribing Support Services and the Local Medical Committees Buying Groups Federation.

“GPs and federations are having to be much more commercial and business focused in terms of the commissioning environment and their involvement with the CCGs and take on leadership roles in a way that they didn’t have to before.

“We were already doing the change management side of it and we expanded by setting up Primary Care Direct because other needs were identified. The aim is to pull together all the best primary care industry experts – finance, legal, HR, property – .and offer a more comprehensive service

“People might not need all of that but they know they can come to one place and find it. It’s a very unusual and innovative approach and that’s partly why it’s been successful. There’s nothing else like it and we haven’t finished yet. We are targeting other organisations and we have some approaching us as Primary Care Direct develops and adds more skills.”

Lisa Geary, a Partner in Capsticks’ specialist healthcare team which opened its Leeds office in 2011, said:: “Ultimately it’s all down to improving patient care and ensuring the sustainability of primary care. The practice managers are the lynchpin to make sure the services are viable, accessible and sustainable.

“GPs are facing huge challenges including succession. Many are thinking of retiring having been at work for 30 years or more but it can be very difficult to recruit particularly in rural areas. Working at scale now is something a number of practices are having to consider to remain viable and maintain patient care and that has led to a big upturn in practices looking to merge.”