A CONTROVERSIAL merger between a US healthcare firm and a Basingstoke GP partnership is because of staffing issues that could have led to "financial ruin", documents reveal.

Minutes of an extraordinary meeting of the Camrose, Gillies and Hackwood Partnership's Patient Participation Group reveal that the partners of the surgery decided to go into the arrangement with Operose Health in order to fix recruitment issues.

Discussions had been ongoing for over a year on how they could be fixed, with staff said to be "fully supportive" of what has been described as a "takeover" by one councillor.

The number of partners has decreased from 13 to 8 since the three surgeries merged in July 2018 to try and reverse the shrinking numbers of GPs.

But with two more set to retire in the next two years, the CGH partnership decided to merge with Operose Health, and American-owned company, minutes of the October PPG meeting reveal.

As previously reported, there has been outrage after it was revealed that the partnership - the largest primary care provider in North Hampshire with over 40,000 patients - was to merge with Operose.

Cllr Paul Harvey, independent councillor for Norden, said that the merger should be stopped until proper consultation could be carried out.

But it went ahead as planned on November 6, with patients informed by the partners by a letter, posted on their website, dated on the day of the merger.

Minutes from the PPG's most recent meeting reveals the issues that the partnership had been facing.

Dr Ann Reed told the meeting that GPs started discussing how the practice would go forward back in September, with the number of GPs reducing and the number of patients per GP going up.

"They have done a lot of work to improve matters but have been worried about their responsibility to patients and over 130 staff," the minutes continued. "The current trend could lead to financial ruin, leading to redundancies.

"Recruitment has not been working. They looked at other partnerships and talked to the local hospital.

"The conclusion was to enter into partnership with a national company called Operose. The team has amazing CVs and the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operational Officer, and Chief Medical Officer have excellent backgrounds.

"The company aims to work out how we can integrate. They currently work with 22 GP practices and 120,000 patients plus out patients and referral management services.

"The parent company is owned by a [US] company but is UK led."

The minutes also revealed that work with the company would free partners from organisational work, increasing patient contact time, and that partners would no longer hold that position but be employees instead.

But taking to Facebook, Cllr Harvey said that he still had concerns.

He said in a post after speaking with the partnership and Operose: "It was clear that the doctors at the surgery are doing what they genuinely feel is best.

"There is an absolute shortage of GPs at this practice and they are entering the ‘takeover’ with Operose because of this shortage. This ‘takeover’ of CGH is political because the practice needs more GPs and the US owned Operose are able to take advantage of that.

"The way the new setup will work continues to be of concern.

"Historically, we were told that the merger of the three surgeries would provide an improved service and solve the economic issues they each faced, including the shortage of GPs.

"Eighteen months on from the merger, it has not succeeded in the way it was envisaged and now Operose are taking over making the same promises."

The partnership was rated by patients as the worst GP surgery in Basingstoke in July, with just 63 per cent of patients saying their overall experience was good.

You can see how your surgery fared here.