Dr Tara Belcher
What were your goals? What do you think you’ll be able to achieve as a Federation that you couldn't as individual Practices?
Our initial goal was obviously to be able to tender for the large profitable Health Service contracts such as NHS health checks, which would otherwise go to the private sector. We strongly believe that if Practices don’t have the ability to undertake these lucrative projects, the NHS is going to end up with all the non-profitable work and perpetually be in a financial bind.
Also we wanted to be able to offer more services at wider times. Different Surgeries have different strengths and specialisms. By banding together, in the future we aim for 12 Point Care patients to have access to treatments which aren’t necessarily available at their own Practice. We also believe that the only viable way to facilitate 8am-8pm GP opening, 7 days per week, is through the collaboration of a Federation.
How do you see the Federation evolving?
We have identified sharing and pooling of resources and support as a potential huge benefit, and this is definitely our key driver now. A prime example of this would be in staff recruitment and retention, which is a major issue in the medical sector these days.
Working with the CCG Primary Workforce and Education Network, we are developing attractive portfolio posts for our GP trainees, allowing them to work in one of our member Practices whilst also being involved in the In Hours Visiting Service, commissioning or teaching. Newly qualified GPs in these posts will also benefit from mentoring.
Another example would be that our new Practice Managers will be supported by both the Federation’s online admin system and also, once the post is filled, in person by the actual Administrator. We expect this to be immensely beneficial in keeping them on-board, as of course the pressures they face can be overwhelming, particularly if they’ve come from a non-medical sector.
We will cement student nurse placements by facilitating the training of nurse mentors in member Practices and by running educational events for both nurses and doctors.
What part does the new website play in the success of your Federation?
It’s absolutely crucial. Through it we’re able to bring everything together and be a single-point source of information and ongoing support for our members. We use it to promote training and development courses and activities, and to share news, events and critical information such as best practices.
As well as data sharing and member linking, we have a library of resources which all our members can access at any time. When we developed the website with Silicon Practice, we basically asked ourselves “Is there an easy way to do this? Let’s try to pool all our aggregated knowledge so that every Practice member can have the information they need at their fingertips, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.”
So the website’s audience isn’t just CCGs and Councils?
Far from it. It’s much more for our members and community. It’s a daily resource which actively supports and connects members and lets patients know where they can go for what medical service, and when.
Another example is that we’re undertaking all the administration of our Winter Resilience Scheme. Plus as I’ve already mentioned, the website functions as a recruitment platform.
What commercial success have you had so far?
We successfully won the bid to provide additional capacity in-hours and Care Home ward rounds as part of the Winter Resilience Scheme. Participating Practices receive a pro-rata share of the available funds.
How do you differentiate yourselves against your private sector competitors?
Confidentiality and familiarity. Patients know their information is secure with us. We’re their GPs; our confidentiality and data security is a given. Plus patients quite naturally prefer to go to their own doctors and surgeries for medical services - people who know them and their medical histories, and who they feel comfortable and safe with.