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GP practice closed down by CQC while waiting for vulnerable practice support

Exclusive A GP practice identified as a target for the vulnerable practice fund has been closed down by the CQC while waiting for that support to materialise, Pulse has learned.

The Raynor Road Medical Centre in Wolverhampton was awaiting support from the £10m fund announced with the ‘new deal’ for general practice last year, but in the interim the CQC has closed it down.

The practice was a branch surgery since merging with Lockfield Surgery in Walsall which means patients can use either surgery, but the two surgeries are more than three miles apart, leaving around 3,000 patients without a local GP.

NHS England’s vulnerable practice scheme had identified around 800 practices across the country as being in need of support at the start of the year, but LMCs across the country have said that practices are not yet seeing material support.

Dr Uzma Ahmad, medical secretary for Walsall LMC, which helped identify the vulnerable practice, said it could have been saved if support had come through sooner.

She said: ’It is a branch practice of a practice which is in Walsall but it is in Wolverhampton. I know that it is in the list of vulnerable practices but I have learned that yesterday it was shut down by the CQC without prior notice. The patients were coming and the doors were shut.

’My concern is that this funding announced last year, we are just sitting and talking about it and [meanwhile] a practice has been shut down before the funding could reach it. I think that is a real failing on behalf of NHS England.’

Asked whether the practice could had been saved if help had come sooner, Dr Ahmad said: ’I believe so, because the concerns were there something could have been done to save that practice.

The news comes as NHS England has yet to launch the tender for the support framework for vulnerable practices, which is now expected this month.

In a letter to regional teams in December, NHS England had said it hoped to have the framework up and running within ‘3-6 months’.

The letter said prospective providers could include ’good local practices, GP federations, LMCs or wider primary care organisations who are able to organise and deliver a peer support offer’.

It said that in some instances ’specialist advice and support might be able to be delivered by a range of different types of providers’, which NHS England told Pulse could include ’things like IT services or finance management support’.

The spokesperson also said that a prior information notice will be published next week to inform potential providers of the upcoming tender process.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has defended the Government’s support measures for general practice against criticism that they were taking too long to materialise.

In an exclusive interview with Pulse, Mr Stevens said NHS England has ’made a start with identifying the first 700 or 800 practices that might benefit from that’ and it now had ’the ability to expand that much faster [and] more than double the size of that support in 2016/17’.

Commenting on the closure of the Raynor Road Medical Centre, NHS England NHS England West Midlands locality director Alastair McIntyre said it was ’aware of the closure of this practice following concerns raised at CQC inspections’ and that it was working with Walsall CCG ’to ensure that alternative arrangements have been made for patients’.

NHS Walsall CCG chair Dr Anand Richie said that ‘practice staff have contacted all patients who were booked in for an appointment and offered them an appointment at the main site at Lockfield Surgery’.

Pulse has contacted Lockfield Surgery and the CQC but neither had commented by the time of publication.

The vulnerable practices fund

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The General Practice Forward View, published last month, pledged to add another £16m to the initial £10m vulnerable practices fund.

First announced last summer in health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s ‘new deal’, NHS England said in December that practices given poor CQC ratings or that were found to have higher-than-average referrals and prescribing ratings would be prioritised for support.

By March, NHS England had formally identified over 800 GP practices as vulnerable as part of its work to allocate £10m worth of support funding.

It found the situation was worst in the North Midlands where 115 practices – more than one fifth (22%) of the total – were identified as struggling.

In the London and South Central (15%) and South West (14%) regions, around a sixth have been identified as practices that could use support funds.