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Revealed: the GP practice with just one patient

By Steve Nowottny

A GP practice with just two registered patients – cited by ministers as a justification for abolishing the MPIG – is actually a Christian hospital, Pulse can reveal.

The practice, at Burrswood Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, had two registered patients last year, and now has a limited list of just one patient. But PCT bosses have defended the long-standing arrangement, insisting it represents value for money.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw last month mentioned the practice as he set out the Government's case for axing the MPIG, but refused to name it.

Giving practices a correction factor ‘dampened the incentive' for attracting new patients and enabled some GPs to survive on very few patients, he argued.

But information obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the practice – which treats hundreds of temporary patients a year – is very much an exceptional case.

And Conservative health spokesman Andrew Lansley attacked the Government for using misleading statistics.

‘Trying to claim a respectable nursing home is an example of GPs exploiting the system is laughable,' he said.

‘Rather than work with GPs to improve our NHS, Ben Bradshaw seems set on waging war against them, often with flawed figures and poor analysis.'

A spokesperson for West Kent PCT said: ‘There is a long-standing arrangement between Burrswood and the predecessor PCT that recognised that a small number of patients at Burrswood would not otherwise receive Primary Medical Services. Whilst there is only one registered patient there are an ever changing number of temporary patients that the GP cares for enabling both them and the hospital to benefit particularly as he has prescribing rights.'

‘This represents good value for money, providing high quality end of life care and keeping many chronic disabled patients and those with sub acute episodes out of hospital.'

‘The alternative of a Visiting Medical Officer on an equivalent bed number would put the cost significantly greater, approximately £7,750. In addition it is increasingly difficulty for GPs to take on these enhanced roles within these sorts of environments alongside their GP practice because of the work load involved with the patients and the number of visits required throughout the week.'

The practice receives a global sum equivalent of £473.21, plus an MPIG correction factor of £143.90.

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'The Department is aware of a small number of GP practices with few registered patients on their lists, including one with two registered patients which is Burrswood Nursing Home in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. As we have said before, these GP practices may well provide services that meet other local needs. The anomaly is that some of these practices still receive a Minimum Practice Income Guarantee, which reflects levels of income under the pre-2003 GP contract. This is neither fair nor transparent.'

'Both we and the BMA have indicated on a number of occasions that the MPIG arrangements are not sustainable. We want to work with the BMA to agree a fair and equitable funding system to recognise the number of patients registered with a GP practice and their local health needs. There are separate arrangements which the local NHS should be using to pay for services for non-registered patients.'

Health minister Ben Bradshaw

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