Federations in action: The St Helens experience

Posted on April 17, 2009. Filed under: Federations, News stories, Providers |

RCGP News | February 2009

Four general practices in St Helens are showing how the federated model can work to improve GP training. Aspect Health Ltd is made up of four training practices who decided to pool their resources last summer following the RCGP’s publication of Primary Care Federations: Putting Patients First and amid the backdrop of Lord Darzi’s review of the NHS. 

An innovative teaching programme covering key areas of the nMRCGP curriculum has allowed trainers from the practices to hold monthly tutorials with subjects covering their particular area of interest. Tutorials are co-ordinated through the federation teaching website and have been well received by GP trainees. 

According to Dr Greg Irving, one of the federation trainees, working together has been a great success. 

“It has gone down very well – trainees get to see different practices and work with a wider range of people. It gives us wider exposure and access to tutors with different specialties and distinct experiences. 

“The St Helens experience is an example of how working more closely to share local knowledge and expertise can build on the strengths of each individual practice.” 

At the same time, each practice has retained its autonomy, independence and unique identity by continuing to use existing buildings. 

Working together means the four practices are well placed to bid for PCT contracts. The federation has been successful in its bid for two Darzi equitable access schemes in the area, with the training of GPs seen as a key strength. 

Federation also means better access and different ways of accessing the service (some booked, some walk-in appointments) with extended hours being more practicable. Economies of scale also mean that one practice manager can now do payroll for all four practices. It has been a busy six months for Aspect Health: 

● A limited company has been formed, along with a Board, an executive team and a website. Accountants and solicitors were consulted to help set up the business model 

● Exploratory meetings have been held with the Chief Executive of the local Acute Trust, the Director of Social Services, the Carers Centre, local third sector organisations and the local Chamber of Commerce, as well as our host PCT 

● The federation is working with the local Rotary Club to run a two-day event promoting health awareness in the town centre Aspect Health has already been approached by a number of other groups looking to follow a similar teaching model, and in the future will aim to use their federated model to deliver revalidation.


PRESS RELEASE   (Added 5/3/09)

‘Aspect Health win contract to provide new GP services in St Helens.’ 

Aspect Health win contract to provide new GP services in St Helens NHS Halton and St Helens has awarded a new contract that will see extra GP provision within St Helens. Sherdley Medical Centre, which will be based within St Helens Hospital, will provide residents of Thatto Heath, Marshalls Cross and the surrounding area with a new GP surgery providing 60.5 hours of medical care. The new practice will become operational from 1st September 2009.

Commenting on the awarding of the contract, NHS Halton and St Helens Interim Chief Executive, Ian Williamson, said “We have awarded the contract to Aspect Health. Following an open and fair procurement process, 8 potential providers were shortlisted from the independent sector, existing GP partnerships and social enterprise. Their proposals were rigorously evaluated by a panel against clear criteria for quality, and value for money.

In addition to the contract to provide a new GP Practice within St Helens Hospital, Aspect Health (a group of 4 St Helens Teaching Practices) has been awarded the contract to provide a ‘virtual’ practice called Eldercare. Eldercare will provide a home visiting service for the frail, vulnerable and elderly, predominantly to residential and nursing homes. Services will commence from 1st April 2009 and will be the first of its kind in the North West.

These developments are part of the Government’s drive to improve the public’s access to primary care services, ensuring communities have access to high quality primary health care services in easy to reach locations.

Ian Williamson, Simon Hargreaves, Jim Wilson
Pictured from left to right: Ian Williamson, Interim Chief Executive – NHS Halton and St Helens; 
Dr Simon Hargreaves, CEO – Aspect Health Ltd; Jim Wilson, Chair – NHS Halton and St Helens


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