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Independents' Day

Seventh practice in under two years set to close in English city

Yet another GP practice has closed in Brighton, bringing the total number of closures up to seven in less than two years, covering more than 30,000 patients. 

Some 2,300 patients have been left with instructions to temporarily rely on a local walk-in centre after the GP principal at singlehanded Lewes Road Surgery handed back their contract.

It follows four practices in the city closing last year, while two more closed in 2015, with one GP partner telling Pulse it was 'like a bereavement'.

Local leaders said that it is creating further pressure in an area that already has 'significant capacity problems'.

NHS England said in a letter to patients that Lewes Road Surgery principal Dr Amrut Shah was 'stepping down with immediate effect' following 'discussions over Christmas'.

It further admitted that it was likely patients may have to register elsewhere by the end of this month to 'guarantee' their 'ongoing care'.

The letter, from NHS England South East director of commissioning Sarah Macdonald, said: 'Lewes Road Surgery is working with locum GPs to provide some urgent appointments, but this is dependent on the availability of locum GPs.

‘It is likely that we will need to ask you to register with another local GP practice in order to guarantee your ongoing care after 31 January.’

She added that NHS England is 'working with other local GP practices to make sure we have an up to date list of which individual practices can register new patients'.

Dr Julius Parker, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, said: ‘Obviously it’s another practice closing, it’s another dispersal in an area that has significant capacity problems. And as you know there have been a number of practices whose patients have been dispersed over the last 18 months.

'It creates further pressure in an already stretched service. The LMC has worked closely with NHS England in terms of supporting practices who will need to re-register patients from Lewes Road Surgery.’

The practice is the latest in a string of Brighton closures that have uprooted more than 30,000 patients in the past two years.

This included 10,000 patients losing their GP in one go as the Practice Group handed back four PMS contracts last year after a funding review.

A year earlier, NHS England was forced to offer practices £25 for every patient they registered following the sudden closure of the 6,000-patient Eaton Place Surgery.

And in the same year 10,000 patients had to be relocated to another practice after the CQC closed Goodwood Court Medical Centre with immediate effect.

Help for struggling practices

NHS England has pledged millions to help GP practices at risk of closure, following Pulse's Stop Practice Closures campaign.

Its £10m Vulnerable Practice Fund was supposed to have been fully pledged by the end of 2016, and NHS England's director of primary care said last month that between this and the £40m Practice Resilience Programme pledged in the GP Forward View, some 2,000 practices would have been bailed out by the end of March.

But, the promises have come at the same time as managers have said practices that do not conform to NHS England's agenda for all GP practices to federate or merge to operate 'at scale' could 'be left to fail and wither'.

Although NHS England has denied that this is its national policy, reports of closures of small practices keep coming in from around the country.

Pulse revealed in December that at least 16,000 patients would be losing their GP practice over the holiday period, and that six in 10 GPs say morale has deteriorated since the publication of the GP Forward View.

For advice on how to access the Practice Resilience Programme, read Pulse's full guide

Readers' comments (5)

  • Private GPs are springing up. The media is beginning to discuss it. Attitude manipulation is under way. The government sits back. This is the way the world ends .... not with a bang but a whimper.

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  • I object to NHSE or anyone else describing closures as "sudden". This happened in our area too, they have 6 months notice, and do nothing til the last month when they are scrabbling around summoning us out of surgery for urgent meetings before allocating patients between surrounding practices for a nominal sum that barely covered postage to inform patients of the arrangement. Certainly nowhere near £25 per patient as quoted here. ( which I cannot imagine will ever be repeated elsewhere) Although that may seem generous It won't help much if you can't recruit locums or partners to help with the work. Unless you find three full time GPs who are willing to look after 2000 patients a piece for 50K. Never mind nurses and admin staff and space! And then they wonder why it's difficult to get a routine GP appointment. This is another cut by subterfuge, where NHSE rub their hands in glee as they see another practice going under and know that they can allocate those patients to neighbouring practices,who are unable to refuse, at minimum cost.
    Ever heard of dominoes?

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  • Just Your Average Joe

    Apart from GP land, every part of the NHS pretty much runs of payment by activity, so no wonder the DOH is always trying to relocate work back into the free all you can eat GP practices as it is cost free.

    I want to know how hospitals used to be paid to do all the chronic disease work, monitoring all cardiac, respiratory, diabetic etc patients, and now they are seen in GP land, the clinics are still full, long wait lists, and hospital costs remain on the increase.

    There is no more capacity to take on work from hospitals, care homes, community contracts given to private providers and closing practices, which are all pretty much expected to be taken on free or for peanuts.

    Everyone else used to get hundreds of pounds to do this work and either told to go to GP for free, or a few pounds as part of some LES when it ends up dumped on GPs.

    We are unable to recruit GPs and locums are charging fortunes to cherry pick which work they will do, leaving regular partners to be stretched to the limit to cover the short fall.

    Finally some are cracking and handing back contracts - this trickle could turn into a flood if conditions don't drastically improve.

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  • More to come in the next few years, you heard it here first!

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  • It's got to be the plan.

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