An organisation that supports GPs in Sunderland is continuing its rapid expansion to help drive forward the innovation of NHS services.

Sunderland GP Alliance has expanded its base at the North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) for the fourth time in six years – now adding a second office to accommodate its growing team of 220 clinical and office workers.

The not-for-profit business is owned by the GP practices of Sunderland, and exists to help GPs work collectively for the benefit of patients and staff. By pooling resources and expertise via the alliance, they can offer services to patients that could not be delivered by individual GP surgeries.

“We’re all about providing better care for local people and supporting our member practices at a time when demand on the NHS has never been greater,” said Chief Executive Jon Twelves. “We don’t take anything away from the personal care patients get from their own GPs but by working together we can offer extra services such as out-of-hours clinics in convenient locations across the city.

“Our model of care really came into its own during the pandemic because we were able to draw on this experience to quickly mobilise vaccine clinics in easy-to-reach places.

“This way of working as a GP federation is fairly unusual and in this case it may well have saved lives because it meant Sunderland had quicker protection against the virus and a higher take up of the vaccine.”

The alliance’s latest expansion into a new 2,500 sq ft office more than doubles the space it occupies at the BIC and has been driven by a new focus by NHS England to increase the services offered by GPs.

Jon said: “One of our key new services is social prescribing, a service that helps provide solutions for social problems that might otherwise present as medical issues, such as anxiety or social isolation. We’re also employing more pharmacists to help people on complex medication regimes, freeing up precious GP time to spend with patients.  

“Most of our staff work out in the community, in GP surgeries, but the BIC is an important central base for our back-office support staff. It provides a professional environment for clinicians when they need to do non-patient work and meet as a team.

“The fact that we’ve grown from one person to 220 people in six years demonstrates the value we are delivering to our GPs and the wider health economy. Our investment in a second, substantial office space at the BIC is testament to how happy we are here.

“The BIC has been very flexible when it comes to accommodating our growing team with easy come, easy go terms and plenty of options for space. The team has worked with us in a really supportive way from day one.”

The BIC’s Centre Manager Donna Surtees added: “The growth of Sunderland GP Alliance is a fantastic success story for the BIC and demonstrates how much we love working with start-up companies to support their journey. We look forward to the team continuing their growth here and to witnessing the innovation in healthcare services they deliver to Sunderland’s residents.”