The proposed closure of a GP surgery arm in Sheffield has been described by GP leaders as the possible first casualty of England-wide PMS reviews, with the local MP stepping in to demand answers from NHS England over claims that ‘half the patients in his constituency’ could be affected by cuts.
The Sothall and Beighton Medical Practice has informed its 10,000-plus patients that it stands to potentially lose £220,000 – roughly a quarter of its total funding – over a four-year period, and has invited patients to take part in a three-month consultation to decide whether to keep both arms of its surgery open but with drastically reduced services, or close the recently-refurbished Beighton Medical Centre.
NHS England’s local area team for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw confirmed that it had informed practices of how much funding would come under review as part of plans to ensure ‘all GP practices have equitable access to funds’. It said that the process was ‘at an early stage’ but urged patients to participate in the consultation launched by the practice.
A spokesperson said: ‘Measures are being put in place to ensure funding for every GP practice is equitable and all practices have equal access to funds.’
‘Under new arrangements practices will be able to received additional funding providing they met a number of key performance indicators centred on the services they offer to their patients. We would encourage patients registered with the Sothall and Beighton GP practice to get involved in the surgery’s public consultation by filling in and sending back the relevant forms.’
‘NHS England in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw is committed to ensuring patients have access to the best primary care services available and that patients everywhere have equal access to high quality services.’
But Sothall and Beighton Medical Practice’s manager, Jackie Ashton, told Pulse it was likely that there would be a significant reduction in clinical appointments whether or not both surgeries remained open.
She added: ‘We feel that this is likely to be more dramatic if we have to keep both sites operational.’
‘Predictably, patients who live closest to the Beighton Health Centre and would likely be more profoundly affected have argued for this site to remain open and we have encouraged them to present their views to their MP and councillors as well as completing our questionnaire.’
Labour MP for Sheffield South East Clive Betts told Pulse he has written to commissioners demanding information on how many GP practices were affected and how much total funding is at stake, but that he is waiting for a response.
Mr Betts said: ‘I’m pretty angry about it. GP practices are already struggling – I’ve had more complaints about problems getting doctors’ appointments in the last year than I’ve ever had.’
‘We’re supposed to be trying to increase the level of services delivered at primary level and reducing the pressure on acute beds in hospitals, and keeping people in the community because it’s better for them and more cost-effective. How can you do that if you cut GP funding? It’s completely counter-productive.’
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said that the proposed closure was ‘the first very clear example of the impact of the PMS review that I’ve come across’.
He added: ‘I anticipate it will be the first of many. The amount of money being cut from PMS practices is three times as much as the amount being recycled from correction factors payments for GMS practices.’
‘I think there are huge concerns that this is going to have a massive impact right around the country. Practices are starting to be told how much they’re going to be losing, and some practices stand to lose massive amounts of money in a very short space of time.’
GP leaders have warned of ‘illogical’ variety of approaches by area teams to the PMS reviews that have been centrally decreed by NHS England, with some area teams offering support to pratices switching to GMS and other not. Meanwhile, London PMS practices are set to be paid based on a set of ‘outcomes standards’ which could include cancer survival rates and A&E attendances. In some areas, accountants have warned that practices were facing losses of up to £400,000 which would also leave them unviable.