Over the past year the GP medical partnerships team has a sharp increase in the number of GP practices looking for a new partnership agreement to cover merged partnerships. This has come about as a result of various reasons not lease the effect of financial pressures bought about by cuts in funding. Smaller practices in particular have found that to merge with another practice is a better option than to close down and this can be the only way to preserve their financial position.
The enlarged partnership that emerges from such a merger also protects partnerships against the recruitment problems that can commonly arise when a partner resigns from a smaller practice. It is no longer an easy process to recruit partners and this is another factor that makes a merger more attractive. It is also increasingly hard for small practices to deal with the changes imposed by NHS management and the regulatory environment. Mergers may also occur as a result of smaller practices and sole practitioners retiring; the risk of GMS contracts and/or personal medical services agreements being terminated is reduced by ensuring that other contract holders are able to provide continuity.
According to the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, the ‘corner shop’ model of general practice is finished and GPs will form ‘expanded group practices’ that employ or take on as partners hospital consultants, pharmacists and social care workers. This can result in a pooling of expertise whilst also allowing for the administrative burden of running a practice to be shared. There are also more parties to share the work load and to cover absences.
Whether for financial, strategic or operational reasons, any merger will require a robust partnership agreement to govern any new relationship. The respective practices may well have existing agreements in place which may have conflicting terms. A new agreement needs to reflect a common vision of the overall direction of the practice as well as more detailed matters.