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GP partners forced to sell medical equipment to pay for costs of closure

Partners at a small GP surgery in Warwickshire are having to sell medical equipment to cover the costs of closing their successful practice.

A crowdfunder page has been set up to help the three partners of the Studley Health Centre cover up to £50,000 of the costs of closing the practice, including redundancy payments, raising £3,000 so far. 

The practice applied for ’vulnerable practice’ funding from the CCG, as part of the £10m fund set up by NHS England (see box below), but they were refused due to not meeting the criteria of the pilot scheme.

It also applied to merge with another local practice, a move which was rejected by NHS South Warwickshire CCG.

The practice, which had a patient list size of 2,000, handed back its contract in September and closed on 31 December.

Minutes from NHS South Warwickshire CCG had reflected that patient satisfaction at Studley Health Centre was ‘high’.

But Dr Lars Grimstvedt, one of the three part time partners at the practice, told Pulse that the practice became unviable after it lost PMS funding due to the ongoing PMS reviews.

He added: ‘We had to clear out our rented property as we were closing down which meant selling on office and medical equipment like couches, ECG machines, nebulisers, anything that was portable. We had to sell equipment to pay for the cost of closure. We didn’t go bankrupt but it was a very tough time. ‘

The partners at the practice have covered the shortfall from their own pockets and Dr Grimstvedt said that he was now working as a salaried GP at another practice and was earning more for doing the same hours.

Pulse reported in October that the partners were having to consider personal bankruptcy due to the closure.

This is the latest in a long line of practice closures highlighted by Pulse through its ‘Stop Practice Closures’ campaign.

Last week, the seventh practice closed in Brighton in less than two years, which has affected more than 30,000 patients in total. 

Some 2,300 patients were left with instructions to temporarily rely on a local walk-in centre after the GP principal at singlehanded Lewes Road Surgery handed back their contract. 

Help for struggling practices

NHS England has pledged millions to help GP practices at risk of closure, following Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign.

Its £10m Vulnerable Practice Fund was supposed to have been fully pledged by the end of 2016, and NHS England’s director of primary care said last month that between this and the £40m Practice Resilience Programme pledged in the GP Forward View, some 2,000 practices would have been bailed out by the end of March.

But, the promises have come at the same time as managers have said practices that do not conform to NHS England’s agenda for all GP practices to federate or merge to operate ‘at scale’ could ‘be left to fail and wither’.

Although NHS England has denied that this is its national policy, reports of closures of small practices keep coming in from around the country.

Pulse revealed in December that at least 16,000 patients would be losing their GP practice over the holiday period, and that six in 10 GPs say morale has deteriorated since the publication of the GP Forward View.

For advice on how to access the Practice Resilience Programme, read Pulse’s full guide