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22,000-patient practice forced to hand back contract over GP shortage

A 22,000-patient GP partnership in Plymouth has been forced to close its patient list, after its partners handed back their contract because of rising patient demand and a shortage of GPs.

Ocean Health partnership’s four GPs handed back their contract at the beginning of August after failed attempts over several years to fill five vacant GP positions across the partnership’s three sites.

Pulse has learned that the recruitment issues were made worse when two partners and the managing partner resigned in November 2016, triggering a planned merger with Beacon Medical Group, which then fell through in May 2017 due to further recruitment issues.

This comes after NHS England decided to close four GP practices in Plymouth last year because their ‘relatively small size’ is not a fit with the ‘national blueprint’ to work at scale.

A spokesperson for NHS England confirmed to Pulse that, despite handing back their GMS contract, all four partners will keep working at the partnership as salaried GPs. 

As a result of the partners handing back their contract, NHS England has put in place ‘immediate measures’ to manage patient demand while a new provider is found.

These measures, which come into effect from August 2, include a temporary list closure until October, with the practice only accepting immediate family members and newborn babies of existing patients, which NHS England said would 'ease pressure'.

Ocean Health ran three sites in Plymouth: Ocean Health Centre, Collings Park Medical Centre and an acute care hub.

But a statement on the Ocean Health website said the shortage of GPs and locum cover has meant the Collings Park site will not have a GP on site everyday.

Dr Rachel Tyler, a partner at Ocean Health, said the partnership has been unable to recruit due to ‘unprecedented GP shortages’ and rising demand in the area.

She said: ‘We’ve put in a huge amount of effort to try and cope with this, but ultimately we felt it was too big a task.

‘It is not a viable prospect for a partnership of only four doctors to support a population of nearly 22,000 patients, so we were unfortunately left with no choice but to hand back our contract.’

NHS England has said a procurement process is under way to find another long-term provider to take over the practice from April 2018 and will be run in the meantime by Devon Doctors Ltd.

Dr Matt Mayer, chair of GP Survival, said: ‘A practice of this size having to hand back its contract is terrifying.

‘The relentless cuts to general practice are now meaning even large, previously stable practices are collapsing. This should be a wake-up call to the public and to the Government.’ 

Mark Procter, head of primary care for NHS England in Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said: ‘We recognise that the partners at Ocean Health have been trying for some time to recruit additional GPs and other clinicians.

‘We’ve been closely supporting them, but after significant effort from everyone at Ocean Health, they’ve decided it would be in the best interests of patients to let another provider take on the contract.'

The headline has been amended to clarify that the partners at the practice have handed back their contract. The original headline said that the practice had closed - but it had just closed its list

Readers' comments (14)

  • I feel very sorry for these doctors who like all of us are trying everything possible to make our practices work. When NHS England say they are supporting us it never feels that way. They are warned years before regarding issues like this and never help until the end is nigh.

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  • A tragic parable of current workforce challenges and unlikely to be the last! NHS England must pressure Dept of Health to recognize and admit current workforce crisis! Not holding my breath!

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  • They are happy to pay an external provider to continue the practice but seems tough they can't offer additional funding to the existing team and helping with recruitment

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  • The only support the NHS and policians offer is in the form of words. They do not care about GPs or patients otherwise they would have done something before now !!!!

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  • Bravo NHSE - some thngs will never match up to the government blueprint, will they. For example, a GMS Practice being hounded out of it's contract and offered a APMS at basic GMS rate; while an exisisting APMS Provder is given preferential treatment and paid £250 pounds/ patient for the same patient and also given additional payments for KPIs.
    There is corruption. It happened in Medway in 2011-12 when NHSE refused to disclose how much they paid to other APMS while forcing a £64/ patient APMS on one Practice.
    Unfortunately, the trend is still on.
    As 12:20 points out - there is always money for established private providers. My bet is that if you were to go and say to NHSE that you wished to switch to APMS, they would offer you £85 per patient but if XYZ ltd offered to provide the service they would get anything up to £250 for the same service.
    NHS Fraud, please step in and take stock of the assets of some Managers.

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  • I am very surprise that is not more GPS and practices are handing the contract back to NHS England , I think NHS England and the GMC are out of touch to the reality we are facing .

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    as sad as this is - it doesn't have any impact.

    the list will be passed on to other practices and life will go on.

    when we get to the point that the public has NO primary care provision then things will get interesting.

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  • Dr G Pee finds himself in a difficult position as his face is squashed uncomfortably into the National Blueprint.

    "Work at scale? No, Mr Pee, I expect you to die!", laughs Mr Hunt, stroking his directorship...

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  • There is no transparency in how primary care is funded and the payments to practices vary hugely even in the same area. Having been forced to disclose on our website how much we earn we have more sympathy from our patients. The direction of travel is towards a fully salaried model with no continuity of care like they have in the US in some of their ACO's. I have patients that travel back from the US to see me as it is cheaper and they can be assured I am not medicalising their problems in order to get repeat attendances. No-one has asked the public what sort of primary care they want and how much they are willing to pay for it. Most are shocked that their annual care costs are so low and that primary care is so poorly financed and under valued. Once bigger practices start to fall like a house of cards we all will because demand will rise in those that are left until they too collapse. Then it is those terrible doctors who left the NHS which is why it will have failed.

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  • Let it go, that is what this elected Govt. wishes.

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