In autumn this year Chesterfield Medical Partnership will officially join together with Royal Primary Care becoming ‘RPC Chesterfield North-West’.

Chesterfield Medical Partnership approached RPC about a mutual and beneficial collaboration, attracted by Royal Primary Care’s way of working and visible improvements. As a clinical division of Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust) for the last five years, Royal Primary Care  is outside the more traditional primary care model, complementing the model delivered by Chesterfield Medical Partnership. With both organisations innovative and forward thinking, joining together ensures they remain viable and sustainable and can respond to the significant challenges primary care faces.

Patients and staff won’t see any visible difference (staff, surgeries and opening hours will remain exactly the same across Chesterfield Medical Partnership and Royal Primary Care). This new collaboration simply offers a range of opportunities and improvements for the future.

For example, as part of the Chesterfield Vocational Training Scheme, Chesterfield Medical Partnership brings expertise in GP training programmes – and it also hosts a long-standing and successful commercial research company. Both Chesterfield Medical Partnership and Royal Primary Care support effective mixed clinical teams, in line with the goals set out in the NHS Long-Term Plan, which advocates the development of ‘fully integrated community-based health care’ – including the creation of multidisciplinary teams, where GPs, pharmacists, nurses, mental health and allied health professionals work across primary care and hospital sites’.

In addition, with a combined and larger clinical team in place, there is the potential for ‘the new RPC organisation’ to run its home-visiting service in a different way; along with more options available to cover surgeries and balance workload at times of high-demand and operational pressures.

Chesterfield Medical Partnership currently provides primary care services to 14,000 patients out of surgeries based in Ashgate, Holme Hall and Whittington – and is rated ‘GOOD’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Royal Primary Care – covering areas of Chesterfield South-East (Grangewood, Staveley and Inkersall) and North East Derbyshire (Clay Cross and Grassmoor) has also delivered rapid improvements, achieving the same CQC ‘GOOD’ rating earlier this year.

Commenting on the approach Chesterfield Medical Partnership made to Royal Primary Care, Kate Chilton, Practice Director said: “We are a thriving and successful practice. Nevertheless, across the country, fewer GPs are inclined to become partners in a practice – so we were interested in how Royal Primary Care operates, as a way to future-proof and secure our services for our own patients. We felt that we’d really fit with RPC because they have a clinical model similar to ours and want to progress. We are pleased to have the opportunity to ‘join forces’ as we can see the potential it offers. We will benefit from being part of a larger group at a time when the Long-Term Plan for the NHS recommends that GP practices work in networks to proactively manage the health and well-being of their populations. We feel really excited about this opportunity!

Divisional Director at Royal Primary Care, Dr Peter Scriven agrees that this is an exciting pooling of skills, knowledge and experience: “We are delighted to come together with the Chesterfield Medical Practice in a constructive way, so we can work on a common approach to improving patient and carer experience for the 44,000 local people we all look after. We are like-minded organisations. Chesterfield Medical Partnership brings expertise with it that will strengthen Royal Primary Care – to improve the primary care offer to all of our patients. As a GP I fully understand how important continuity of care is and I want to emphasise that all our patients will continue to see the same GPs, in the same buildings which will be open at the same times as normal, I hope they’ll also appreciate the benefits of being part of a larger primary care group in these challenging times.”

The development has been subject to robust scrutiny – with workforce, working practices, finances, governance, building and facilities all going through examination. The amalgamation has been approved by local commissioners NHS Derby and North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, as well as NHS England. There has also been engagement with staff, patient participation groups and other interested parties – sharing details about the agreed merger, its opportunities and any potential risks.

Chief Operating Officer for Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Tony Campbell, is the executive lead for Royal Primary Care and comments: “We’ve learnt a lot from the two RPC developments we’ve led over the past five years – clearly demonstrated by the CQC ‘GOOD’ rating both of them have now achieved. There have been challenges to overcome, although we have shown that this model can succeed and does improve patient care and services.”

The Trust’s Board of Directors considered the Chesterfield Medical Partnership’s approach over a number of months. We feel that bringing Chesterfield Medical Partnership into our Royal Primary Care division is a positive that has a number of advantages. With a larger clinical team that includes a range of professionals, RPC as a whole is well-placed to support the NHS Long-Term Plan and it’ aims to keep patients well and independent, as well as caring for them when they have an urgent clinical need. What matters most is that we work as a single entity to provide safe, high-quality and effective care to our patients.”

It will remain ‘business as usual’ for patients – who will continue to contact their GP surgery as they would do normally for appointments, repeat prescriptions or other queries.