New network for GP federations launched in England

The NHS Confederation has expanded its support and representation of primary care providers by launching a new national network for GP Federations.

12 May 2021

From today, the chairs, chief executives, chief operating officers and other senior managers of federations will be able to sign up to access and receive a range of benefits from the NHS Confederation, which already represents NHS trusts, integrated care systems, clinical commissioning groups and primary care networks across England. 

This includes tailored member products such as bulletins, briefings and events, as well as opportunities to influence and inform national guidance and forthcoming legislation.  

The NHS Confederation has established its Primary Care Federation Network in recognition of the valuable role that federations play in their local systems already and to provide a national voice to influence on their behalf.

One of the early priorities of the new network will be to ensure primary care continues to be supported in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and that the role of federations is reflected in the development of future primary care strategy. This includes the potential for federations to support recovery across primary and secondary care. 

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The response to the pandemic has reinforced the benefits of system working and collaboration in every part of health and social care.

“Given our role representing every part of the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland I am delighted that the NHS Confederation now further broadens its membership to represent GP federations alongside primary care networks, integrated care systems, NHS trusts, mental health providers and clinical commissioners. There is a shared sense of purpose across our membership to realise the benefits of integration and collaboration and to improve the health of every part of the populations they are proud to serve.”

Ruth Rankine, director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, said: “GP federations have played a vital role in bringing individual practices and PCNs together during the pandemic with the mass vaccination programme in particular demonstrating what primary care can achieve when it works at scale for its patients.

“The NHS faces an almighty challenge in the coming years with diagnostics, elective activity and long-term condition management all greatly disrupted by coronavirus and added to that, we are just scratching the surface of what the long-term impact will be on the nation’s physical and mental health. 

“Tackling this will require a coordinated effort across primary care as the front door of the NHS for most patients and so, the sector needs to be heard and supported to deliver.

“Our Primary Care Federation Network will be the voice for federations in England, ensuring that they are appropriately represented and actively involved in shaping future healthcare strategy. It will complement our established offer for PCNs, recognising their interdependencies and opportunities for collaboration, as well as their unique positions in the system.

“As the NHS Confederation is the only membership body that represents all parts of the NHS, we will support federations to work closely with the wider system, build their connections and share best practice and innovation.”

The NHS Confederation has established an advisory board for its new network, with Fiona Adamson, chief executive of Hartlepool and Stockton Health appointed as its chair and Dr Andy Hilton, GP and chief executive of Primary Care Sheffield as its vice-chair.

Fiona Adamson, chair of the NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Federation Network, said: “Federations are rooted in both general practice and the values of the NHS. Through this new network, we will drive forward a shared vision to provide more integrated, innovative and responsive care for patients, to reduce health inequalities and to improve the health of our local populations.

“Across the country, many federations are already valued members of their local systems, not only as providers who can offer scale but also bringing ideas, innovation, and connections that will be essential in future.

“Through the imminent legislation and supporting guidance, this is an exciting time for Federations and our practice and PCN partners. I am looking forward to exploring with our members what the role of federations across ICSs and ICPs could be. I would love all federations to sign up so that we can shape this discussion together.”

Dr Andy Hilton, vice chair of the NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Federation Network, said: “Federations have the potential to be a driving force behind local population health management and are seen by many as the architype for delivering more primary care at scale yet they have never had a formal representative body until now. This is a golden opportunity for these leaders to come together through the NHS Confederation to assert the value of federations in healthcare planning and delivery, connect and learn from other parts of the system, and ensure their experiences are heard in shaping future policy.”

GP Federations are groups of primary care providers, which form a single organisational entity and work together as economies of scale to deliver services for their combined patient communities. 

There are around 200 GP Federations in England. The size and scope of these vary significantly across the country, with from some federations formed of around ten practices covering patient populations of 200,000 and others that are comprised of as many as 85 practices supporting over 600,000 patients. 

Their size makes them more efficient than practices working individually (for example when delivering certain back-office functions or staff training and education), and they provide patient services that can be commissioned at scale across multiple areas to suit local needs, reducing unnecessary duplication.

Also, the size and management of GP Federations enables them to be engaged in leadership discussions across their local systems on behalf of their PCNs and practices thereby representing primary care at an ICS level and supporting in the delivery of services at a range of scales.

Find out more about the Primary Care Federation Network