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18,000-practice set to close as GP partners hand back contract

A practice in Oxfordshire with a list of 17,948 patients could be set to close after failing to recruit enough GPs to remain open.

Partners at the Horsefair Surgery in Banbury said in a letter to patients that it had given notice to NHS England to terminate its GMS contract after several of its GPs left due to retirement or ill health.

As a result, one branch is closing from 3 October ‘for the forseeable future’, while the partners will continue to run its other surgery until a new provider is found.

It is one of the largest practices to announce their closure, and is the second in Oxfordshire to hand its contract back within a matter of weeks.

The CCG has said ‘given the issues with recruitment and capacity’, it is running a recruitment campaign.

The three partners at the practice explained to patients in a letter on 7 September why they were handing their contract back.

They said: ‘This is a letter to explain a change in the running of Horsefair Surgery. We, partner GPs, have given notice to terminate our contract to provide general medical services. As you may already know, several of our GPs have left due to retirement or ill-health.

‘The practice has been working hard to recruit GPs but our efforts have been unsuccessful. We are not alone in this. Across the country GP services are under significant pressure because of rising demand and difficulties in recruitment. 

The partners said that there it would continue to provide services at its South Bar House premises in Banbury until they handed over to a new healthcare provider, but that the Middleton Cheney branch surgery from October 3 ‘for the foreseeable future’.

Julie Dandridge, deputy director & head of primary care and localities at NHS Oxfordshire CCG said: ‘The challenges faced by Horsefair Surgery are similar across the county and country. Horsefair Surgery have given notice to terminate their contract. We will work with the surgery to support them while we secure a provider of GP services who will work from South Bar House and ensure a smooth handover of services when the time comes.

’Given the issues with recruitment and capacity across the county, we are looking at launching a GP recruitment campaign to encourage GPs to come to Oxfordshire to work. Similar campaigns are being run in other areas of England.”

A growing number of struggling practices are choosing to hand back their contract to NHS England due to financial or recruitment issues.

Last month, partners at the North Bicester Surgery in Oxfordshire announced that they would close the practice for good on 30 September after the withdrawal of MPIG funding made it ‘financially unviable’.

Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign

Stop Practice Closures-logo-online-330

Stop Practice Closures-logo-online-330

Pulse has been pressing for immediate support for vulnerable practices across the UK since 2014 through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

NHS England announced a new tranche of £16 million of funding to support struggling practices this year.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the fund in his ‘new deal’ last year, and NHS England said in December that practices with poor CQC ratings or higher-than-average referrals and prescribing would be prioritised.

But Pulse has revealed that practices are still closing, with one practice closing while it was waiting for vulnerable practice funding.

Other notable recent practices in danger include four GP practices in Lincolnshire, which the local trust is taking temporary charge over, four practices in Brighton and Hove servicing  over 10,000 patients having to close after funding was pulled through the review of PMS contract, while Essex LMC has warned that almost one third of practices have considered handing back their contract in the county.

Patients in one of Birmingham’s poorest areas will have to walk for 20 minutes for a GP appointment as their nearest practice will close this month after the CCG failed to retender the contract.

Read more about the campaign here