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Practice hands contract back after four partners are forced to resign

Four partners in a practice in a deprived area have been forced to take the decision to resign and hand back their contract to NHS England due to problems recruiting partners.

The partners at the Circuit Lane Surgery in Southcote, Reading, said they have made the ‘extremely difficult’ decision to resign after one of the other partners retired, leaving them unable to run the practice.

The partners stressed the surgery will not close and a new provider will be found to take it over, but local residents have criticised NHS England for not informing patients and expressed concern patient care could be compromised during the tendering process.

It comes as the Government revealed last week that more than 500 practices have closed or merged in the past five years, while Pulse has reported that there are scores of practices across the UK who are considering handing their contracts back, leading to the launch of the Stop Practice Closures campaign.

A statement on the Southcote practice website reads: ‘With great regret, the partners at Circuit Lane Surgery have taken the decision to tender their resignations with NHS England and have given six months’ notice. Their contract comes to an end on 31 January 2015.  

‘Every possible option has been explored to avoid this outcome, and this decision has been extremely difficult. In the end multiple factors, including the impending retirement of partners and national problems with GP recruitment, in the face of rising workload, have left no other choice.’

Practice manager Jenny Marnock told Pulse the practice has been struggling because of difficulties replacing two full-time partners who have retired in the past 18 months.

With a further full-time partner now planning to retire in January, she said, the remaining four partners felt they could they no longer guarantee sufficient GP cover and decided to call it a day.

Ms Marnock said: ‘The partners are incredibly sad to have to do this and it was an extremely difficult decision. It is just what is happening nationally in terms of the difficulty recruiting full-time partners.’

Ms Marnock added that the practice of 10,400 patients was in a socially deprived area, with a large number of elderly patients with complex needs.

She said: ‘It’s really quite important the practice remains open because of its location and the needs of the patients, including their inability to travel elsewhere.’

NHS England is currently seeking a new provider from February 2015 and moved to reassure patients they will continue to receive high-quality primary care services.   

But local patient representative group Healthwatch Reading criticised NHS England for not informing patients, many of whom it said only heard the announcement through local media, and said ‘safeguards’ must be brought in to ensure continuity of care.

Chief executive Mandeep Kaur Sira said: ‘Healthwatch Reading’s prime concern is that patient care is not compromised during the tendering service to replace the five GPs at the surgery. Locum doctors may need to be brought in if new doctors are not in place by 1 February 2015, and we want safeguards in place to protect continuity of care, particularly for those people with long term conditions who regularly see GPs and have built up trusted relationships with their doctors.’

Ms Sira told Pulse: ‘We are also very much aware of the issues in Reading regarding GP recruitment – they do mirror the national situation in that a number of GPs in the local area are up to retirement age soon and there is this gap in recruiting new GPs. Our concern is - where will this capacity come from?’

A spokesperson for NHS England Thames Valley said: ‘The partners at the Circuit Lane Practice in Reading have tendered their resignation to NHS England. We are now exploring the options available for providing a GP service to patients after 31 January 2015, when the six month notice period ends.  

‘We would like to reassure patients that we are committed to ensuring the continuation of high quality, local GP services and we will keep patients and the wider local community informed as these options are developed.’

NHS England had previously told Pulse that any practice closures will be reprocured through APMS contracts.

Readers' comments (40)

  • Is this the start of a mass exodus?

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  • very sad situation for staff as well as patients. I am sure that this decision was only taken when no other options were left.
    None of us want to go down this route - but I do feel strongly that we will see many more practices following in the wake of this.
    Patient will suffer - -but think too of the practice support staff, -the receptionists , nurses etc. Had a look on website - these doctors are not old - 3 registered in 1983, and 1 in 1993. - what a waste.

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  • Sad but not surprised. Patients lose out when general practice is undermined to extinction.

    Piecemeal resignations will only increase local pressures.There should be a coordination from the BMA for potential resignation of all NHS GP surgeries in unison in anticipation of NHS GP Contract negotiations. The NHS collapses if there is no primary care gatekeeper. Disaster for the government prior to elections. We actually have a very strong hand!

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  • 'it's not about keeping practices open but good patient care'.

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  • let's see how many rush for a 5 year APMS contract!

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  • How and why are the patietn groups not involved, this healthwatch comment appears to be ignorant of basic facts and the desperate situation

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  • Take my word and check after 6 months.

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  • This comment has been moderated.

  • I agree that there should be a coordinated resignation day. Not necessarily everyone resigning - but that everyone who thinks it is time - if they are able to pick a day should pick 1st Feb/ 1st August.

    Alternatively 1st April/ 1st October.

    It is just more likely to hit the headlines more if 50 practices close and 50 others hand in notice on the same day, rather than 1 every few days on the down low.

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  • Sad, but surprisingly, nobody cares.
    We applied for list closure as there is not enough money to employ a second GP and have a full time nurse. After 4 weeks of application NHSE 'suggested' that we withdraw the closure application or else - if they decline our request then we would not be able to re-apply for list closure for another 6 months'. Nice threat there.
    The LMC has backed them !! and joined in to say we should withdraw. We offered to discuss but want the list closed as it is growing rapidly - yesterday there were 20 applications!!

    The list size is 4100, there is one f/t GP and a nurse 3 sessions a week; the total global sum paid is 20,900 and the whole MPIG was taken off 2 years ago as otherwise they 'would have to do a tender as per EU Laws' so the Contract had to be the cheapest possible. LMC and Medway NHS Trust were at the negotiating table then.
    I think this is slave driving, absolutely immoral and unacceptable. The stance of NHSE and the LMC is, I would even say - criminal.
    Probably, we'll be the next giving up our Contract because if LMCs are so cosy with NHSE then whose on our side?

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  • This stupid excuse that everything has to be tendered under EU law needs to be squashed NOW.

    Where are the BMA and RCGP in challenging this?

    Oh yes - secretly some have been benefiting from this policy!

    I have heard BMA looking at legal options, but how long does it take to get an opinion?

    DO SOMETHING as NHS being sold out to Private providers, and new US trade agreement will be the final nail in the coffin.

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