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GP practices set for £1m emergency assistance fund from NHS board

Exclusive An NHS board is considering plans to allocate a £1m ‘emergency assistance’ fund for GP practices after it emerged one in six local practices had closed its list.

A committee of the NHS Lothian board reported that 20 out of 127 practices had reported closed lists, and pushed for the board to allocate the funding to pay for new GPs, help retain current GPs and upgrade services.

NHS Lothian told Pulse that it was ‘finalising the details’ of an emergency package for practices.

It comes as Pulse is running its Stop Practice Closures campaign calling for emergency funding for practices who are most in need.

The NHS Lothian potential funding follows lobbying by a group of health professionals in the area, the Edinburgh Community Health Partnership (CHP), who called for the board to provide the money to help several practices who do not have enough GPs to meet patient demand.

A report by the CHP sub-committee contained in NHS Lothian board papers for a meeting last week, ‘not[ed] the need for an additional £1 million funding for primary care’.

It added: ‘Work is underway to stabilise a number of practices due to issues around GP recruitment, locum availability, an ageing workforce and difficulty in attracting GP partnerships. District nursing and health visiting are facing similar workforce issues and ongoing difficulties with IT performance are also having an impact.

‘It has been highlighted that the model of primary care has not changed for 20 years. We are currently in a very challenging position with 20 practices in Edinburgh reporting closed lists.’

The CHP said it has ‘extreme concern over a number of GP practices being unable to continue to provide services.

An NHS Lothian spokesperson said: ‘The allocation of funding is still at a very early stage and specific recipients and schemes have not yet been identified. Details are being finalised and are subject to discussion with partner organisations.’

NHS Lothian said it had to take over the running of two practices this year, but Lothian LMC chair Dr Catriona Morton said that this figure was likely to rise.  

One practice – Links Medical Centre in Edinburgh – has remained open only through apportioning 2,000 of its patients last spring to other practices, after it was unable to replace GPs who left.

Dr Morton explained: ‘One million pounds is a realistic amount for an emergency fund. We can’t afford to lose practices in Edinburgh. NHS Lothian has to support practices in major difficulties. Practices are operating in areas of expanding populations, and so capacity has reached saturation point. Well over 20 practices have restrictions about how many people they will register.’

In England, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced in his ‘new deal’ speech that struggling practices would receive £10m to support them, but it later emerged that this would only apply to practices put in special measures by the CQC.

Readers' comments (18)

  • Expect more of this - the most grudging response they can get away with. The whole system needs root and branch support. Bailing out the most visible problems is not going to stave off further widening collapse.

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  • Even if they gave all that £1 million pounds to me, I would not return to working as a full-time GP principal.

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  • The problems appear to be much the same in Scotland as in England - and it might appear that the Scottish NHS is having equal difficulties in, first, recognising that there *is* a problem and second in finding a solution.
    I agree : a £1m emergency fund (spread over how many years?) won't solve a chronic problem which is due to lack of GPs prepared to enter into partnerships (or even, it seems, to be locums) combined with ever-increasing populations and workload.
    Pulse, please keep us updated on this one: what will this fund be spent on - and will it be announced, and then raided for all sorts of things in addition to supporting struggling practices - as the fund announced by Jeremy Hunt has been in England?

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  • It will be interesting to see how the Daily Mail reports this 'bonus for GPs'.

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  • "Work is under way to stabilise a number of practices". Really? So while you and your million-pound thimble are bailing out through the back door, Hunt and his cronies have a sprinkler going in the waiting room. Joined up government my eye. Stable. Horse. Bolted.

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  • The impending disaster that is to prove the eclipse of General Practice as we know it has been on the cards for years and Governments ( Scottish or UK ) do not listen. Increasing part time work --impending retirement crisis--inadequate training and recruitment-have all led to this --
    What is the £1M going to be used for ---paying the patients not to be ill!!!
    And yesThe popular press who see us as a bunch of lazy fat cats soaking up the dosh will have a field day and we shall lose even more patient respect!!!
    "The Family Doctor RIP !!!!"
    There needs to be a salaried service utilising practices with Nurse Practitioners and GPs to do the more complex stuff in 15-20 minute appointments etc .

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  • They are becoming increasingly aware of the huge costs of "stabilising" practices, and how much unresourced work GPs have soaked up ovr the years from goodwill. Its too late now as the goodwill has dried up and less GPs are going into partnerships. Its going to be a huge cost to the NHS to provide the level of care that has been undertaken by General Practice in the past.

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  • John Glasspool

    LOL 3.11. I second that!

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  • The Phrase "pissing in the wind" comes to my mind

    in fact " urinating in an unremitting oncoming tornado" is probably more appropriate;

    GENERAL PRACTICE IS SO GROSSLY UNDERFUNDED, MORALE IS SO LOW that this papering over the cracks exercise will probably only last a few weeks and then another "bail out" will be required.....

    gets used to more and more and more of these stories folks

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  • To bail out this current mess will take billions not this pin money they are throwing at this.

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