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GP practices closing while waiting on support promised by Jeremy Hunt

Exclusive GP practices at the brink of closure are being denied millions of pounds of funding promised to them by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Pulse has learned.

Pulse has found that barely any of the £10m ‘vulnerable practices fund’ announced by Mr Hunt as part of his ‘new deal’ for general practice has actually made it to the practices most in need, 14 months after it was first announced.

Meanwhile, practices are continuing to close due to funding problems and struggles to recruit GPs.

GP leaders said that the fund has been ‘too complex’ and ‘too cumbersome’ to achieve its aim of support practices most in need.

NHS England promised the £10m fund – announced in June 2015 - would ‘provide support to practices under pressure, ensuring patients have continued access to high-quality care’.

It gave funding to its local area teams to identify vulnerable practices and then use the funding to support them

At the start of this year, NHS England regions identified 800-plus practices that they considered to be vulnerable.

But the Pulse investigation found that, in most cases, NHS managers haven’t even decided which practices will receive the funding, and there is no indication when practices will receive tangible support.

Pulse has contacted dozens of LMCs, every NHS England region and vulnerable practices themselves, and found:

  • In Wolverhampton, the Raynor Road Medical Centre was closed down by the CQC while it was waiting for support to be provided;
  • In neighbouring Walsall, five of the town’s practices were identified as vulnerable and promised up to £15,000 in support, but nothing has materialised – despite the practices having to stump up £1,450 beforehand to be ‘diagnosed’ as vulnerable;
  • In London, practices that have been identified by NHS England and CCGs have not yet been contacted;
  • Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland LMC says £8,000 for practices to ‘buy in expertise’, and £2,000 for ‘diagnostic’ support, are available but only two practices have so far received any funding;
  • Kent LMC says a substantial number of practices has been identified, but knows of none that has actually had funding. Some have been receiving support from an RCGP scheme to help practices in CQC special measures.

At the same time, Pulse has been reporting – through its Stop Practice Closures campaign - on numerous practices having to close, due to funding and recruitment problems.

For example, in the past few months alone:

Dr Brian Balmer – a GPC negotiator until last August – said that area teams have been unsure about how to implement the scheme: ‘They know that this was too complex, too cumbersome.’

He added: ‘NHS England has completely forgotten how to give the money to the right people and get on with it.

‘I do know NHS England were disappointed in the uptake and the amount of spend. They’ve completely forgotten that nimble, local action is what gets stuff done in the health service.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘NHS England is working through its local teams to ensure the funding available through the vulnerable practice fund is fully committed to named individual practices by the end of October.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • Fiddle while we burn
    (to the tune of whistle while you work).

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  • Dear All
    Mr Hunt does not care. NHSE does not care. The GMC does not care. CQC does not care. You CCG probably does not care. Start looking after yourselves.
    Paul C

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  • Always the same. A politician announces something and nothing happens for months or years. And £10 Million is very small change in the grand scheme of things

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  • Corner shops, post offices, banks and building societies have all but disappeared from our communities.We have become used to closures of local services without in many cases protesting. Surgeries are now at risk but there is no appetite to resist the change required to stave off the inevitability of working at scale. Perhaps we will see practices open in Meadowhall, Trafford Centre, Bluewater etc for seven day access

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  • All of general practice is struggling. Why are some struggling more than others?
    Visit one of these vulnerable practices and you are likely to find that they are small (often single-handers), badly led, pay their staff peanuts and are unwilling to change archaic, inefficient working practices.
    It seems unfair that self-neglecting practices will now be bailed out whilst hardworking GP's who have been more modest in their take home income look on.
    It is time for the NHS to take ownership of general practice and ditch the dysfunctional independent contractor model.

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  • It is because GP practices are self employed small businesses that they are allowed to fail. The push is towards a fully salaried service as part of MCP's. The promised money is like every political announcement hot air and no substance. Where has the £1Billion for practice infrastructure gone? The hoops practices have to go through in order to access the funds are mind boggling in their complexity which then relies on a hastily organised committee to sign off in time which in my experience rarely happens.

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  • The whole mission was for gps to run CCGs and get services and support locally.
    NHS England care less and as hunt is distant can barely manage the junior doctors.
    Our locality leads have won contracts and their practices are doing fine. CCG looks after their mates .
    Bad luck if you are flat out on serving your patients.
    Accountants advise and our CCG had McKinsey at a cost of millions advise .

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  • Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP03 Oct 2016 11:03am

    You are generalising .... We have been "identified" as a Vulnerable Practice and I can assure you we have not been "bailed out" as you assume. In fact to date we have not received any resource financial or otherwise, just more meetings & more paperwork. 12 months ago I had 5 Partners looking after 10,000 patients now I have 1 Partner. In 48 hours I had 3 resignations on my desk due to burn out and the rush to the door to avoid last man standing! We are a well run, efficient practice (always have been) we pay above average salaries for our staff, our income was good & this was shared with the whole practice team. Our recent CQC inspection resulted a GOOD rating. We are certainly not archaic! We are working incredibly hard, with no assistance (you'll be relieved to hear) from NHSE, CCGetc with a new clinical team including Advanced Nurse Practitioners; Pharmacists & Physiotherapists all specialists in their fields, all providing fantastic care and a quicker route to treatment than waiting to see a GP. Unfortunately we have had to use Locums (although this is reducing each month) some who charge £700.00 a day will only start work after 9.30 and need to be out of the building before 4.00pm. They will not do visits or paperwork and will only sign scripts at a push. They are certainly not interested in medicine or patients only their pay-packet. Partners are disillusioned and burnt out. Very few have the energy or the motivation to stand up to the dismantling of their livelihood and so they leave. General Practice needs to change & is changing but only the fittest will survive.

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  • |Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP|03 Oct 2016 11:03am such a negative and uninformed sweeping statement! As a PM of a `vulnerable practice' I can categorically state that our Practice is well-led, rated Good by CQC, innovative and certainly not archaic!!! We have had some funding from NHSE, the grand sum of £2500 - god knows what we're supposed to achieve with that when what we really need is expert advice and guidance. However, apparently they haven't been able to put that together yet so in order to justify the money we have had to hold numerous meetings to try and pick a way through the quagmire of info from various accountants and solicitors. Yet more clinical time lost and needing to be back-filled by locums who are charging an extortionate amount of money, although, thankfully we have a couple of `regulars' who really enjoy working with us and make life easier.

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