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GPs braced for small practice cull

By Ian Quinn

Exclusive: More than one in six English trusts are planning a cull of GP practices under the Department of Health's cost cutting drive, a Pulse investigation can reveal.

More than one in six English trusts are planning a cull of GP practices under the Government's cost-cutting drive, a Pulse investigation reveals.

The call for up to £20bn of efficiency savings has seen trusts draw up plans for much bigger but fewer practices, sounding the death knell for singlehanded practices.

This week a GP body representing small practices claimed even DH chiefs were shocked at how PCTs have declared war on singlehanders and pledged to lobby the new government to reverse the decisions.

Of 63 trusts that either responded to a Pulse request for information or have published plans, 11 revealed proposals to cut the number of practices and phase out singlehanders.

Pulse was able to unearth definite plans for 68 practice closures but many trusts planning closures refused to divulge how many would go.

Among those who have confirmed a target include Harrow, where 19 practices have been earmarked, and South-East Essex, where at least 20 will go under plans for polyclinics, which the PCT claims are not suitable for small practices.

The Tories have pledged to put the brakes on wholesale moves into polyclinics until GPs have been consulted.

Many London PCTs have kept their plans under wraps, despite Pulse having revealed NHS London has ordered a blanket ban on singlehanded contracts.

However, NHS Bromley revealed it was planning to offer short-term APMS contracts to singlehanded practices to encourage them to merge with other practices as part of plans to cut primary care spending.

A report says: ‘The PCT will be supporting and encouraging practices (and in particular singlehanders) to move towards three- to five-year APMS contracts where this supports the retirement plans of GPs, mergers or similar developments.'

NHS Stoke said it would ‘support redevelopment of single large practices with a minimum of 8,000 patients or the colocation of multiple small practices, with a combined minimum of 8,000 patients'.

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, told Pulse: ‘There is a very aggressive attack, particularly on singlehanded practices. We had a very good meeting with people at the top of the DH and they were shocked. We will be pushing very hard for meetings with the new government.'

NHS cuts will mean practice closures, especially singlehanded practices NHS cuts will mean practice closures, especially singlehanded practices

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