MINEHEAD Medical Centre, has become the country's first individual GP practice to operate as a John Lewis Style Employee-Owned Trust (EOT).

The move enables the practice to offer GPs and other health staff a say in how their practice is run.

Staff can also develop a leadership role without needing to have money to invest in a partnership and profits generated are invested back into the practice to help improve services, training and wages.

A key driver in the decision to incorporate firstly as a limited company and then as an EOT is to help protect the ongoing stability and sustainability of the practice by making it a more attractive place for staff to work and develop their careers.

Minehead Medical Centre, along with many practices in rural areas, has found it challenging to recruit staff because of its geographic location.

Dr Ed Ford, who has led the development of the employee-owned trust at Minehead, said: "We have a fantastic management team and wider staff team, so partners at the practice felt we should give them more control of the business.

“We also wanted to ensure that the business structure shouldn't rely on individuals holding shares that could be difficult to transfer if people wanted to leave. Hence the idea of becoming an EOT.

“EOTs offers GP practices an alternative, more flexible operational model, offering staff a greater say in how GP practices are run and opportunities for the team to develop their careers by having a greater leadership role, without needing to have the funds to invest as a partner.

“As an EOT, Minehead Medical Practice is committed to continuing to drive up standards at the practice and deliver the best standard of care to our patients”.

Minehead Medical Practice has recently recruited additional GPs and reception staff, but currently has a number of additional GP and other health vacancies.

An NHS Somerset spokesperson said: "The decision to agree the incorporation of the GP practice as an EOT has been subject to a robust and thorough evaluation and decision-making process by NHS Somerset, in line with national guidance.

“This is the first application for a GP to become an EOT in Somerset and we are aware that other organisations may be interested in pursuing a similar model. We hope that this decision enables the Minehead Medical Centre to continue to provide its patients with the best possible care."