DOCTORS surgeries across Salisbury and South Wiltshire have formed an alliance to give greater weight in sourcing funding for patients.

The Wessex Primary Healthcare Alliance (WPHCA) represents 25 GP practices - including some in Devizes and Trowbridge - and cares for more than 260,000 patients.

Set up as a company in June, its board of directors are all Salisbury-based.

The alliance competes against both NHS and private providers of health care to manage medical and social care contracts such as diagnostic outpatient and ancillary services.

Rachel Clapton, a GP and partner at Whiteparish Surgery, the communications director of the WPHCA board, said: "Currently GPs are only able to access about six per cent of the NHS budget, but do about 50 per cent of the work.

"By pooling our resources as one group, we are able to wield more influence and offer substantial details of health and social provision within our contracts.

"It is already working. Foundation trusts are listening to us, we have delivered one contract and are working on the next with all profits going back into community healthcare."

The first contract involves offering vulnerable or 'at risk' patients a screening test for heart irregularities during their annual flu clinics at GP surgeries.

Using a hand held device for 30 seconds, a screen display gives an indication if further investigations may be needed to avoid future health problems - and will help prevent expensive hospital admissions.

Alliances are being set up across the country with the Wessex one learning from earlier ones set up in Liverpool and Newcastle.

Dr Clapton said that with forecasts of funding for General Practice to be outstripped by demand, family doctors had a responsibility to ensure that future funding was secure for patient care and for the training of new doctors and nurses.

She said: "Responsible use of the NHS services by the public will help to secure its future.

"By working together as a federation, not hampered by political agendas, clinicians will be in a position to offer patients what they are seeking – continuous care through a known and dedicated team."