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CCG has ‘not done enough’ to find new GP provider for small practice

A councillor for Shropshire has criticised the local CCG for not working ‘hard enough’ to save a small practice from closing.

At a health and adult social care scrutiny council meeting, councillor Kate Halliday said Shropshire CCG did not ‘try hard enough’ to find a new GP provider to take over Whitehall Medical Practice, a 3,700-patient APMS practice in Shrewsbury.

The CCG put out a tender after private provider Malling Health decided not to renew its contract, which ends on 30 September. No bids were received and as a result, the practice will close at the end of this month.

Councillor Halliday told Pulse: ‘Shropshire CCG said in the meeting they do not know why people did not bid for the contract. My feeling is that they could have worked harder to design a contract which could be attractive for providers.

‘I feel that CCGs should have strong relationships with potential providers which should help to steer the design of contracts, and that they should also work actively to understand the reasons why nobody would bid for a contract they designed.’

Ms Halliday said that she was not surprised the CCG received no bids because the contract tendered was for a 4.5-year APMS contract with no option for extension and previous CCG meetings said a 5-year APMS contract would not be ‘attractive’ for bidders.

She added: ‘The CCG breached the timescales/content set out by NHS England in its “Primary Medical Care Policy and Guidance Manual (PGM)” for Stage 1 and Stage 2 of managing primary medical care contracts coming to an end. The whole process was very rushed. If it had not been so rushed, the pre-procurement process may have identified a contact which would have been attractive to bidders.

‘They attached to the AMPS contract an additional service to take on patients with a history of violence, a contract that can deter some bidders.

‘There was very short time given between the award of the contract (30 June) and the time at which the new provider was expected to start the service (1 Oct).’

Shropshire LMC secretary Dr Ian Rummens said: ‘I think the comments may simply reflect the dismay of patients at having their surgery close.’

He added: ‘I’m not surprised by that in the current climate – Shropshire practices have been experiencing significant problems recruiting for some time.’

Shropshire CCG director of primary care Nicky Wilde said: ‘The APMS contract was coming to an end and therefore the CCG needed to undertake a procurement. This followed an engagement process with the patients registered at the practice.

‘A procurement process took place, using a fair market rate for an APMS contract. However, this was unsuccessful in finding a provider, therefore the list of around 3,700 patients is currently in the process of being dispersed to neighbouring practices, all of which have open lists and the availability to register new patients.’

But Ms Halliday said that patients are struggling to register with new practices and found out Whitehall Medical Practice was closing through the local news.

She said: ‘Patients of this practice are struggling to find new GPs in the area. They discovered their surgery was closing via the press due to an administrative problem which meant that the official letter that was supposed to be sent to them was not.

’There is understandably a lot of upset about how the process has been managed. During the process other surgeries had expressed concern about the closure of the practice and their ability to take on new patients if the surgery was to close.’

In London, a small practice was forced to close its doors because of CCG delayed paperwork after the death of its single-handed GP.

Another CCG in Lancashire was recently accused of being ‘unwilling’ to keep a small practice open.