Regulator fees could cause practice closures, warns BMA
By Gareth Iacobucci
Plans for all GP practices to be charged a flat fee to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) could unfairly penalise single-handed practices and rural branch surgeries, and even force some practices to close, the BMA has warned.
The regulator wants to charge GP practices for registration in the same category as dentist's surgeries from April 2012, which would equate to fees of £1,500.
But in its response to the CQC's consultation on regulatory fees, the BMA warned that applying the same fee scale to GP practices would mean single-handed GPs having to pay the same as larger providers despite their different levels of contractual funding, which could threaten their financial stability,
The BMA said the move would make some branch surgeries ‘financially unviable', and warned that larger practices that run separate surgeries elsewhere would be penalised and ‘may have to close those surgeries'.
It urged the CQC to consider alternative funding methods that may take into account other factors such as list size, number of contracts and the complexity of services provided.
It said: ‘It is our view that it would be potentially damaging to apply the fee bandings proposed for dentists to primary medical services providers. Firstly, many NHS GP practices have branch surgeries that provide a vital service to rural communities that could become financially unviable if their existence meant a higher fee for providers.
It added: ‘Secondly, single-handed GP practices could be disproportionately affected, as a single-handed GP practice with one location would be expected to pay the same fee as a large practice with one location despite their different levels of contractual funding. If, as a result of the fees, single-handed GPs had to merge their practices with other contractors and move locations, local services and continuity of care for patients could be lost.'
The association also called for GPs fees to be lower than for hospitals and NHS trusts because of the reduced ‘complexity and variation' involved.
The CQC is due to launch an additional consultation specifically relating to primary care registration fees later this year.Regulator fees could cause practice closures, warns BMA