Federating made (relatively) easy

26 August 2014

Clarity of purpose, timescale and communication are crucial to establishing a practice federation, work by PCC with CCGs and practice groups around the country suggests.

The primary focus of a federation can be to improve the efficiency of practices through measures such as sharing staff or systems or to allow the practices to bind together as a single provider unit to bid for contracts.

Beyond these pragmatic aims, the purpose of federating for many practice groups is to provide the basis for bigger primary care organisations able to provide a wider range of services across a bigger area. Other factors encouraging practices to work together include concerns about the long term viability of general practice, commercial ambition, growing workload, workforce issues (including the supply of GPs themselves) and the desire to respond to pressing health needs.

Whatever the drivers, once a decision to federate has been made, it is important that all staff are kept informed and those leading the initiative engage appropriate specialist support at the appropriate time.

PCC’s experience suggests the following top tips:

1)    Engage early with all the practices and determine how committed they are to working together, where they are in their thinking, whether they have a shared vision of change and what plans are in place

2)    Identify the leaders and ensure they have the time to dedicate to the development of the federation. Make sure that these leaders are as close to representing the range of GPs and practices as possible – this can be a challenge as they will be self-selecting.

3)    Develop a vision of whether you want your federation to act primarily supporting practices to be more efficient or for more strategic reasons, such as to win contracts to provide services.

4)    Identify the internal and external resources and support required for whichever model you choose. For example, if you want it to be a provider organisation identify support to understand the commercial requirements of being a provider and secure the expertise required to become a commercial entity – often this will require a specialist in accountancy and/or a lawyer.

5)    Keep communication lines open so that all practices and all staff understand what is happening.

6)    Define timelines so you know what has to be achieved by when to reach your goals.

For more information, including about how PCC can help practices to federate in your area, see http://www.pcc-cic.org.uk/search/site/support%20for%20federation

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