• By RMT
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  • Posted Tuesday June 7, 2016

Chemistry is key for successful practice mergers

Formal mergers between GP practices have become an increasingly regular occurrence over the past few years, and it's a trend that has been driven by a range of different clinical and management factors.

Having greater numbers of clinical staff available can make it easier to manage local health needs and deliver new services, while having larger patient lists increases the amount of revenues that can be earned.

Sharing facilities may enable practices to use space more efficiently, and can facilitate new opportunities for additional revenue generation through the sale of surplus premises or leasing space to third parties, such as pharmacies.

The risks and rewards of introducing new service offerings can be shared across the larger organisation, rather than by a smaller single practice, and options for funding premises improvements may also become wider.

All of these points provide a compelling argument for bringing practices together. However, during the process of making mergers happen and getting the backing required from the likes of NHS England, CCGs and their regional equivalents, it must never be forgotten that GP practices are made up of people.

We've seen a number of potential practice mergers that looked good on paper fail to get over the line due to differences of opinion or a lack of chemistry between the two sets of partners and staff involved.

Clear and early communication between all parties at partner level is absolutely key to making mergers work, and can help identify issues that might slow them down or even block them altogether.

At the start of the process, the two practice teams should sit down and establish what their 'red lines' are - the key issues that agreements need to be reached over in order to give the merger the best chance of going ahead.

These could be anything from the amount of holidays that partners can take or the way in which GP remuneration is organised, all the way through to the roles that other staff have and issues of leadership amongst the merged team. If there's clarity and open discussion from the beginning, the risk of something arising that derails the whole merger process is significantly reduced.

Staff at the two practices need to be informed of their employers' plans once things begin to fall into place, and they should be kept up to date with the progress of the merger. This will give the respective workforces a chance to find out more about each other and how their prospective new co-workers operate.

Finally, appointing a project manager for the merger, whether an existing employee or an outside party like a lawyer or accountant, is absolutely essential in ensuring that responsibility for driving the project forward on schedule sits in an agreed place, and that it doesn't get put on the back burner due to other clinical or administrative demands. 

Taking a properly planned approach can ensure practice mergers bring the positive outcomes that all parties want when they embark on the process - and making sure it's focused as much on your people as on your clinical and structural needs is essential in order to give yourself the best chance of success.

Specialist medical accountants at RMT offer medical professionals advice and guidance that is tailored to the unique monetary and legislative environment in which healthcare industry workers live. For more information visit their website.


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