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Proposed Merger and Gosforth Memorial and Jesmond Health Partnership

To all patients of Gosforth Memorial Medical Centre and Jesmond Health Partnership.

Gosforth Memorial Medical Centre (GMMC) and Jesmond Health Partnership (JHP) propose combining to form one larger practice.

This will ensure that both practices are secure and can continue providing high-quality services to our local community. We hope this merger will take place on 1st April 2024.

Links to this information will be sent to all JHP and GMMC patients who have consented to receive text messages, with paper copies being posted to households whom we cannot text. If you live with anyone who is also a patient of JHP or GMMC, please share this information with them.


This article was updated on 8th December 2023 to include new FAQs proceed in response to patient feedback.



Why are we merging?

Two GP Partners at GMMC (Dr Taylor and Dr McClelland) are retiring at the end of March, and recruiting new Partners has not been successful. There are staff recruitment and retention issues across the NHS – especially for GP Partners – so this is not particular to GMMC.

As the demands on NHS staff and services have increased, practices have tended to get bigger and work with neighbouring practices more.

After discussions between practices in Gosforth and Jesmond, it was felt that a merger with JHP could create a stable partnership and sustainable, long-term primary health care.

The Partners at JHP (Dr Ben Davies, Dr Sarah Nicholson, and Dr Fiona Smith) and the remaining Partner at GMMC (Dr Dan Parkin) intend to merge the Partnerships.

Subject to approval from North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), the new Partnership would run services from all four existing sites (Gosforth Memorial Medical Centre on Church Road in Gosforth, 17 and 200 Osborne Road, and 5 Osborne Avenue in Jesmond).

Business as Usual for Patients

Our top priority is to provide high-quality primary care services to patients. We intend to continue to provide medical services from all sites, with no plans to change opening times at any location.

Naturally, there will be lots of work behind the scenes, particularly combining and improving the systems and services operating at both practices. This will include looking at how patients contact both practices. Our aim, in time, will be to have a simplified, single phone system with adequate capacity to answer your calls.

We will work closely with our practice patient groups to ensure that any changes meet the needs of all our patients. We will let patients know of any changes before they take place.

What are the benefits?

  1. More choice for patients
    Long-term goal: Patients can choose any site for their convenience.
  2. More GPs and Nurses available to patients
    All our GPs and nurses have special interests and additional skills. A bigger clinical team means more options for patients.
  3. Modern ways of working
    NHS England’s priority over the next 18 months is for all GP practices to move to ‘modern ways of working’, which means simpler access to healthcare online and over the phone.
  4. A sustainable, integrated Practice
    Some of the challenges of General Practice become easier as part of a bigger practice – that’s why we’ve seen the size of GP practices increase in recent years. Shared resources, economies of scale, better resilience and integrated systems help build sustainability.

Listening to Patients

We are clear that a merger is the best way forward, and we want to ensure patients at both practices are fully informed and can have their questions or concerns answered.

Today, we are launching an 8-week public engagement programme where patients and local stakeholders can ask questions or share their views about the proposed merger.

You can come to our drop-in events in early December to learn more about the plans, share your thoughts or ask any questions. The drop in details are:

Monday 4th December
7.00 pm to 9.00 pm
Monday 11th December
6.30 pm to 8.30 pm
Saturday 6th January
12.30 pm to 3.00 pm
Jesmond Library
St George’s Terrace
Jesmond
NE2 2DL
Trinity Centre
High Street
Gosforth
NE3 4AG
Trinity Centre
High Street
Gosforth
NE3 4AG

A frequently asked questions (FAQs) section is included for your information, along with a feedback form. Patients and stakeholders have until 19th January 2024 to participate, with submissions forming part of our merger application to North East and North Cumbria ICB.

We will regularly update the FAQs on both practice websites (jesmondhealthpartnership.co.uk and gosforthmemorial.nhs.uk) based on feedback we receive.

If you prefer, you can complete a feedback form on paper in any of our 4 locations and place it in the collection box, or return it by post to:

Merger Feedback
Jesmond Health Partnership
17 Osborne Road
Jesmond
NE2 2AH

Letters, FAQs and feedback forms will be posted to households whom we cannot reach with text messages. If you live with other patients of JHP or GMMC, please make them aware of this proposed merger and their options to have their say.

We would appreciate it if patients could please use the feedback methods mentioned above to share their views rather than booking appointments or calling the practices to discuss the merger.

Alternatively, you can discuss this with an independent organisation. Healthwatch Newcastle listens to, advises, and speaks up for health and social care service users. You can contact them on 0191 338 5720 or at info@healthwatchnewcastle.org.uk.  

We hope this information is helpful. We want to take this opportunity to reassure all our patients that the proposed merger will ensure that high-quality medical services continue to be provided for local people into the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

We have grouped frequently asked questions together by topic. We will update these FAQs throughout the engagement period based on the feedback we receive.

These FAQs were updated on 8th December 2023 to include new responses to questions received from patients.

Overview

As you may be aware, Dr Taylor and Dr McClelland at Gosforth Memorial are retiring in March, which would leave Dr Parkin as the sole GP partner.

General Practice has been under increasing pressure for several years. Recently, there has been a move toward larger practice sizes as we change and adapt to provide the services patients need.

There has also been an increase in practices working together. Jesmond Health Partnership and Gosforth Memorial already work closely through the local Primary Care Network arrangements.

During discussions at Gosforth Memorial about future options it was agreed that a potential merger of the two practices would provide added stability and security while maintaining continuity of care for patients.

To provide stability and continuity for patients and staff, yes, a merger is the best option.

With Dr Taylor and Dr McClelland retiring at the end of March, the status quo is not an option. A practice of the size of GMMC being run by one Partner single-handed is not feasible, and, despite the practice’s best efforts, recruiting suitable new partners has not been successful.

The Partnership model in General Practice places significant demands on individuals. They are essentially business owners but carry personal liability for the success or failure of the practices. Along with the increased demands on General Practice, this is part of why the NHS has lost the equivalent of over 400 full time GP partners in the last year alone.

The other options available to GMMC were to effectively hand back the NHS contract at the end of March 2024 and close the practice, to seek a buyout from a third-party, or put the practice in the hands of an NHS trust. It was felt that all these options would compromise the stability and continuity that we believe the merger with JHP can deliver.

The aim is to merge on 1st April 2024, the start of the NHS contractual year. This is subject to approval by North East and North Cumbria ICB.

The three partners from JHP – Dr Davies, Dr Nicholson and Dr Smith will be joined by Dr Parkin, Partner at GMMC, to run the new combined practice.

While the two situations are different and unconnected, some shared factors exist.

Avenue Medical had a different set up to most practices and was not run by a partnership of GPs. To provide their patients with a long-term solution the merger with JHP was proposed.

For GMMC, the retirement of two-thirds of the partnership led to an assessment of the best possible options.

But both mergers share a backdrop of increasing demand on the NHS and its staff, increased working between practices (shared PCN staff and services, as an example) and a move toward bigger practices that offer stability, resilience, and improved choice for patients.

Appointments

Our top priority will be to provide stability for both practices, our patients, and our teams.

However, we will review the clinical ways of working over the coming months to understand best how we provide patient care. We expect the ways of working to be similar for all patients registered across the larger practice.

Jesmond Health Partnership started using the AskMyGP system in 2020. We have yet to determine if this is the future model the combined practice will use but, NHS England is encouraging all practices to increase patient access by introducing a similar process. So, the future model will likely be either 'AskMyGP' or a similar model.

Being larger may allow us to develop new services and manage the demand for appointments across both practices more effectively.

We want the merger to increase, not restrict, the choices you have as patients.

We will continue to provide routine care from all existing sites (GMMC, 17 and 200 Osborne Road and 5 Osborne Avenue), so patients won’t be forced to have appointments at other locations.

However, you could be offered an appointment at another site if this is more convenient or suitable. For example, if a GP with a special interest that meets your needs is available elsewhere, or you can have an appointment sooner at another location.

We will continue to engage with and inform patients if there are any changes to the services offered at any site.

We know continuity of care is vital to patients, and we'll always try to meet patients' needs.

We do not expect or want significant changes in staff, and we know that existing relationships patients may have with clinical and non-clinical staff alike are important.

Staff teams change naturally over time, as with the retirements of Dr Taylor and Dr McClelland, so changes in care are sometimes inevitable.

Recruitment is taking place to replace the clinical work of the retiring GPs, and, as the need arises, we will recruit new staff members who can best meet the needs of our patients.

As with location, you may sometimes be offered an appointment with another team member sooner or at a more convenient time or place.

There are no plans to change how we assign GPs to patients. But as noted above, staff teams do change, and patients are not limited to just seeing their assigned GP and other clinical staff may be better placed to help.

As part of the reason for the merger is the personal decision of two GPs to retire, it is inevitable that the combined practice will have to review its clinical staffing levels and continue to recruit additional GPs and clinical staff when needed. Recruitment to fill the clinical work of the retiring GPs is taking place.

The practice has access to several additional clinical and non-clinical roles via the Primary Care Network and this will provide essential quick access for patients to primary care services.

Our Clinical Pharmacists already provide structured reviews of medication and long-term conditions, and our Advanced Practitioners offer home visits and same-day appointments for acute issues.

The network-wide Enhanced Access service also allows people to access GP services at evenings and weekends.

Visiting and Contacting the Practices

Yes. There are no plans to close any of the four existing sites – GMMC on Church Road in Gosforth, 17 and 200 Osborne Road or 5 Osborne Avenue in Jesmond.

Yes. There are no plans to change opening times at any of the four existing sites. GMMC on Church Road in Gosforth will continue to operate from 8 am to 6.30 pm, with 17 and 200 Osborne Road and 5 Osborne Avenue in Jesmond open from 8 am to 6 pm.

We will look at options for the best phone system for patients and staff. Until otherwise notified, the existing practice telephone numbers will remain the same.

We will talk with all our staff individually in the coming months, but we do not anticipate significant staff changes. Reducing staffing numbers is not an aim of the merger, and we know that existing relationships with clinical and non-clinical staff are important to patients.

We need to ensure that the way the new, larger practice works is sustainable and can deliver the care that patients need. In the months leading up to the merger, we will look at how JHP and GMMC operate services from each site and assess the most effective and efficient way to continue providing services. We will continue to engage with and inform patients if there are any changes to the services offered at any site.

The larger practice would offer a wider range of clinicians to see, broadening the clinical specialties open to patients. The times of appointments may also be more convenient for some patients. We aim to share resources across all sites, be more resilient to the challenges all practices face, and hopefully expand the services that we can provide.

Your Health

Our aim is always to prioritise urgent situations and make sure people are seen as soon as possible where there is a clinical need.

As well as practice appointments, the Enhanced Access service runs at 200 Osborne Road in Jesmond weekday evenings and at weekends. Our Same Day Access service is also at Number 200, where our team of Advanced Practitioners assess and treat people with acute needs.

The proposed merger will not affect chronic disease management. You will be recalled as usual.

JHP and GMMC use the 'SystmOne' clinical system, so we will combine the clinical systems once the merger has been confirmed. This means you could be seen at any site if that was the best option, and any team member would have the information needed to provide you with the best possible care.

No changes are anticipated. Community nurses will continue to work closely with both practices as usual.

No changes are anticipated. The practices do not employ midwives and health visitors but will engage with third parties to ensure that usual care continues to be provided to our expectant mothers and young children.

Prescriptions will continue to be managed in the same way. You can still request repeat prescriptions via our online services or the NHS App and choose which pharmacy or dispensary service to collect them from.

The two practices have similar but not identical boundaries. The practices have previously managed patients living outside their boundaries differently. We will look at this as part of unifying our processes. We will communicate with any patients who live outside of our new boundaries.

GMMC will still operate as an independent practice until 1st April 2024 and remains open for new registrations.

Once the merger has been agreed, to prevent any backlog or confusion as we combine our IT and clinical systems, we may direct anyone wishing to register with the new combined practice to do so via the JHP website.

Both practices have existing Patient Participations Groups (PPGs), both of which were involved in putting together our communications with patients for the merger proposal.

As with all other aspects, we will aim to unify our PPGs so they can continue to play a vital role in keeping our new practice connected to patients.

We want this to be a transparent process where all information is always made available to patients.

We hope our initial communications and these FAQs will answer most questions, but please ask if there is anything else you want to know.

Patients are welcome to attend any of our drop in events or use the online feedback form.

Paper copies are available next to collection boxes in the Reception areas of all 4 locations (GMMC on Church Road in Gosforth, 17 and 200 Osborne Road and 5 Osborne Avenue in Jesmond).

As we receive further questions, we will update our FAQ sections with new responses.

We very much hope that all our patients will continue to use the combined practice for their healthcare in the future.

However, patients can register with another GP practice if they wish. By visiting nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-gp and entering your postcode, you can find other local practices.

New FAQs – 8th December

No. We do not want nor anticipate significant staff changes. All staff at both practices perform vital roles, and reducing staff numbers is not an aim of this merger.

There is a recruitment crisis in General Practice, where the entire system is struggling to recruit and retain staff. We are working hard on developing a model that works across the larger patient population. In recent years, JHP has been very successful at recruiting staff, and our intention is to ensure we have appropriate staffing. Recruitment for GPs to replace the retiring Doctors’ clinical work is already taking place.

No. GMMC currently have 8 GPs, of whom three are partners. Recruitment to fill Dr Taylor and Dr McClelland’s clinical work is already taking place.

We are still developing the model of care we are hoping to use across the merged practices. Our current thinking is that ‘Jesmond’ and ‘Gosforth’ will operate semi-independently on a clinical level. Patients will eventually be registered at the ‘bigger’ practice but will be able to choose to be seen at their ‘chosen’ site for routine care. 

There may be some new services we develop that operate across both ‘locations’, and there may be times when a patient might prioritise being seen sooner and choose to travel between Jesmond/Gosforth where they feel it's appropriate.

We are aiming to have similar levels of staffing across sites long term so patients will not be disadvantaged having their ‘chosen’ site as Jesmond or Gosforth.

There is already an existing service provided by our Primary Care Network (PCN) that offers additional appointments for acute issues, and all practices in Gosforth and Jesmond can access this service for their patients. 

At times when JHP or GMMC do not have the capacity to see you face-to-face that day, you may be offered an appointment at our Same Day Access (SDA) service, which is based at JHP’s 200 Osborne Road.

These are additional appointments provided by our PCN that give extra capacity to practices when patients need to be seen that day. Patients do not have to accept an SDA appointment, but it may mean waiting longer to be seen at their preferred location.

We will aim to minimise this and look at maintaining continuity in both our clinical and non-clinical teams.

We imagine that staff will have a regular base that they work from, There will be some movement as the teams integrate and we respond to patient demand. 

We also need to consider staff preferences, as the issues of travel, parking and public transport that affect patients also apply to staff.

We appreciate this is an area of concern for patients, and we will always do our best to accommodate your requests.

As mentioned in our first FAQS, staff teams change naturally, which means that always seeing the same Doctor, Nurse, or another member of staff isn’t possible.

That said, as noted in the answers above, we intend for patients to continue to be seen in their preferred location - Gosforth or Jesmond - and for our teams to be predominantly based in one location or another.

We understand when you are unwell you want a resolution quickly, and that is our priority also. 

 The two practices currently operate different systems. 

At JHP, there is the digital-first askmyGP system. This allows patients to consult directly with a GP of their choice by sending a secure message and choosing how they want a response (messages or calls).

In lots of cases, issues can be resolved without a face-to-face appointment, which means that when you do need to be seen in person, it is very often done that day.

On average, patients get a first response in under 16 minutes and a resolution within three and a half hours.

93% of JHP patients rate the service as good or very good.

At GMMC, there is the more traditional method of phoning to book an appointment

No changes will be made to either of these systems before the merger officially happens, and any possible changes afterwards will only be made after careful consideration and will, of course, be communicated with patients well in advance.

As mentioned, NHS England has said all GP practices must adopt a ‘modern way‘ of working, like JHP’s askmyGP, in the next 18 months. No decisions have been made on what this will look like for the new combined practice.

Regarding getting quick resolutions to patients’ issues, it’s important to note that, as well as our clinical teams, both practices have access to the Same Day Access clinics and Home Visits service provided by our Primary Care Network, which boosts our capacity to see patients quickly.

askmyGP system is a digital-first system that allows patients to consult directly with a GP of their choice by sending a secure message and choosing how they want a response (messages or calls).

In lots of cases, issues can be resolved without a face-to-face appointment, which means that when you do need to be seen in person, it is very often done that day.

On average, patients get a first response in under 16 minutes and a resolution within three and a half hours.

93% of patients rate the service as good or very good.

Many of us are aware that General practice is in crisis. We are constantly being asked to ‘do more with less’:

  • General Practice has not seen its funding grow to meet the inflationary pressures on costs we have all seen in recent years (our income per patient is 20% lower than in 2018 in real terms) 
  • Despite this relative decrease in funding, our patients' needs are increasing:
    • There is an increased demand for appointments (a 10-15% increase in activity pre vs post COVID)
    • Increasingly complex care, historically managed in hospitals, is now managed in the community 
    • The number of patients living with multiple medical problems is predicted to rise dramatically over the coming years. 
  • There is currently a ‘crisis’ in recruitment and retention in General Practice. Current data would suggest there are 2,200 fewer GPs working in the NHS than ten years ago, and nearly a third of nurses working in General Practice are within ten years of retirement.

A merger doesn’t radically change any of these issues.  However, both in Newcastle and elsewhere, practices have seen merging as one way of managing some of these challenges - there are almost 500 fewer Practices in England than ten years ago. 

The economies of scale that come with a bigger practice allow us to recruit individuals with specialist skills and interests that would not be possible in smaller settings.

It allows us to be more resilient to peaks in demand and capacity. It also allows us some economy of scale around the purchase of supplies and utility contracts, and any savings allow us to take one step forward in bridging the gap between our existing funding and increasing workloads and costs.

No.

We have had a small number of highly personal and strongly worded comments suggesting the main motivation behind this merger is “profit” and to boost Partners’ income at the expense of patient care.

We want to be absolutely, categorically clear that this is not any part of our motivation or the values with which either practice is run.

Both practices currently run with higher than national average GP to Patient ratios and deliver the standard of care they do because patient care is central to every decision we make. 

GP Practices are run by Partners who effectively hold the responsibility for running the practice and delivering care for patients.

Recent years have seen an increasing number of GP Partners decide they can no longer continue in that role and hand back their contract.

This has the potential to impact patient care significantly. At GMMC, two Partners are retiring, and the best way to ensure that GMMC remains sustainable in the future is to merge with JHP to create a larger leadership group to lead the Practice(s).

In fact, the merger process, as required by NHS England, is not financially supported, meaning that the costs of engaging and consulting with patients and managing the process of bringing the practices together are borne by the partnerships.

Have Your Say

Patients can share their views on the merger by completing the online form below. Paper copies are available in all practice locations and have been posted to households we cannot reach digitally.