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Patient pressure prevents practice closure

A practice in London has been given a reprieve from a potential closure after patients campaigned against NHS England’s proposals to disperse the patient list across several neighbouring practices.

The local area team took the decision to keep the Soho Square General Practice open last week, having initially indicated the practice could close because Central London Community Healthcare (CLCH) NHS Trust said it had no intention of renewing the contract it holds when it runs out on 30 September.

The decision followed campaigning from local patients, who sent leaflets to residents warning that the 40% of patients who were Chinese speakers would not be well serviced by neighbouring practices.

The win for patients comes as Pulse has launched its Stop Practice Closures campaign, which among other areas seeks to highlight the problems caused when practices are allowed to close.

Patients of Soho Square General Practice had previously been sent a letter by NHS England in June asking for feedback about how they would like to access health services ‘following the closure’ of the surgery.

NHS England has since said references in the letter relating to the closure of the surgery was a mistake.

As part of the feedback, patients were given two options; dispersal of the patient list – meaning they themselves would choose a new practice; and procurement, where NHS England would find them a new GP or suitable organisation to provide health services.

In light of the letter, a group of patients campaigned to ensure the practice remained open by sending out leaflets to community organisations, which warned: ‘So far patients have not been consulted and the doctors learned of the closure from a neighbouring practice that had been asked if they would take on some of the patients.’

According to Fitzrovia News, the patients’ campaign had the support of the Soho Society, the Covent Garden Community Association, Westminster LGBT Forum, the Chinese Community Centre, St. Anne’s Church, and Soho Parish School.

Last week, NHS England sent another letter sent out to patients saying it will procure the practice and that patients will continue to receive care at the surgery.

The letter states: ‘NHS England has now considered the feedback we received during the engagement period, together with other relevant information, such as the demographic profile of the practice population, public health information and the capacity of other GP practices within 0.75 miles of Soho Square General Practice.’

‘Taking all this information into account we have decided to select the procurement option. Procurement means that NHS England will seek to find a new provider organisation or contractor to enable Soho Square General Practice to continue its service at the current site.’

It added it will invite applications from providers, and the process is likely to take at least nine months. During the selection period for a new provider NHS England will appoint a temporary caretaker provider to continue the service at Soho Square General Practice with existing GPs and staff.

A spokesperson from NHS England said: ‘No decision was made to close Soho Square General Practice. Closure was one of two options, the other being procurement of a new service provider, being considered after the current provider of the service, Central London Community Healthcare, gave NHS England (London) six months’ notice to terminate their contract and stop providing these services as part of their business.

‘We are aware that some patients were confused by wording in one of the letters we sent out, however we issued follow up correspondence to clarify this. We additionally reiterated through public meetings, patient drop in sessions and media statements that no decision had been taken to close the practice.’

A statement from the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ‘Out of our 66 different services, we provide just two GP surgeries – Soho Square and Milne House. We provide these as a legacy from previous NHS re-organisations. They no longer fit with our strategy to grow and further develop the community healthcare services we are so proud of. Therefore, as part of our routine business planning, we have decided that we no longer wish to provide these services.

‘We have notified NHS England of our intention to resign the GP contracts we hold. The GP contracts are scheduled to come to an end on 30 September 2014.  We are continuing to run a wide range of other community services at Soho, including the popular Walk-in Centre, and in the areas around Milne House near Paddington. It is now a matter for NHS England to decide on the re-commissioning of the GP services.’

The Stop Practice Closures campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the growing crisis in general practice and to help struggling practices fight for better support.

As part of the campaign, Pulse revealed that scores of practices across the country face imminent closure.