GPs are being offered a £25 ‘administrative payment’ for every patient they agree to take on from the list of a closing neighbouring practice, after 3,000 patients face being left without a practice when it closes in two days’ time.
NHS England’s Surrey and Sussex local area team said that the ‘short term, one-off support’ was being made available to practices in light of the Eaton Place Surgery – which has a patient list of 6,000 – closing at the end of the week with the retirement of both its GP partners.
The closure of the practice has been mired in confusion after Simon Kirby, MP for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven, told local residents that the surgery was to remain open.
The practice manager told Pulse she was ‘disgusted’ by the actions of the MP, and warned there were 3,000 patients who had not registered elsewhere.
This is the first known offer of additional financial support to practices to take on patients from neighbouring practices.
Pulse has been campaiging for NHS England to pledge support to practices under threat of closure as part of its Stop Practice Closures campaign, after finding scores of practices on the brink of shutting, and has previously reported that one in five GP practices had struggled to cope with the influx of patients from closed neighbouring practices.
NHS England told Pulse that it was offering the support as an ‘administrative payment’ because of the short time frame in which practices will have to take on these patients.
A spokesperson said: ‘NHS England is providing short term, one-off support to reimburse practices in registering new patients. This reflects the imminent closure of Eaton Place and the number of patients other practices need to support to re-register safely within a short time frame.
‘Providing practices with a one-off administrative payment recognises the additional staff and resources they may need to make available to do this and will ensure they can maintain services at the same level for their existing patients while they are undertaking this work.’
The practice had contacted patients last week to confirm that it would close on 28 February after a neighbouring practice’s plans to install a branch surgery in the premises fell through.
Both the practice and the local area team had been advising patients to re-register with other providers since it was first earmarked for closure in November 2014.
However, Mr Kirby wrote to constituents in the practice’s immediate vicinity in January to tell them that the Eaton Place Surgery had been saved from closure following campaigning and lobbying on his part.
Practice manager Jeanette Corps told Pulse that more than 3,000 patients had yet to re-register elsewhere.
She said: ‘I’m pretty disgusted, to be honest. I don’t know exactly what the letter said, other than that the practice would definitely remain open.
‘We wrote to all the patients last week to tell them the surgery was closing. Some patients are very understanding, but others are obviously very upset. As much as I can understand that, it doesn’t help that I have at least four members of practice staff who still don’t have other employment to go to. It’s a difficult situation all round: there are no winners.’
In a statement sent to Pulse, Mr Kirby said that he was ‘frustrated and disappointed’ that the practice closure was to go ahead.
He said: ‘Having worked so hard to put all the interested parties together to enable the approval and ratification by NHS England of the branch application, I was very optimistic that local people would continue to enjoy a GP surgery at Eaton Place. […] I did indeed write to share the latest information at the time with local residents in the area surrounding Eaton Place.’
The MP offered to hold a roundtable with the current GPs, local GPs and NHS England to ‘try and find a way forward for patients, even at this late stage’.
NHS England told Pulse that there were 13 other GP practices within a two-mile radius of Eaton Place with the collective capacity to register all affected patients. All will be offered a £25 administration fee for each new patient they accept from Eaton Place.
A spokesperson said: ‘NHS England was clear in its communications to patients and local stakeholders that we could not guarantee that a new branch surgery would open at Eaton Place, or by what date. We therefore recommended to patients that they should continue to re-register with other local GP practices while these negotiations were ongoing. Unfortunately the practice that wanted to set up the surgery is no longer in a position to go ahead with its plans.
‘NHS England’s ongoing priority is to make sure all affected patients are able to choose alternative arrangements for their care and to guarantee that they will all have ongoing access to GP services once the current surgery closes.’
This comes after Pulse blogger Dr Hadrian Moss was threatened with a breach of contract notice after he informally closed his practice list.