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MPIG cuts could force single-handed practice to close

A single-handed GP partner is considering handing his contract back to NHS England as a result of MPIG cuts that has left his practice struggling to survive.

Dr Stephen Kite, the sole partner of the Maltings Surgery in Ware, Hertfordshire, said he had been told by NHS England that his practice was one of the 100 worst affected by funding cuts since April.

Dr Kite, 58, is now working with colleagues at Ware’s two other GP surgeries to find a solution to the problem of who will take on his list of 3,000 patients when he retires.

He said: ‘There’s a real chance that there are too many patients for just two practices to cope with – especially when both of those practices have more than one doctor who will be retiring around about the same time.

‘We’d like to find a way of working together from purpose-built premises, but finding them is very difficult.’

Dr Kite told Pulse that premises are already an acute issue in Ware. Dolphin House, one of just two other GP practices in the area, is already ‘full to the gunnels’, with patient notes stacked on shelves upstairs and administrative space in the eaves.

And a co-commissioning proposal document from East and North Hertfordshire CCG, seen by Pulse, said that both Dolphin House and Ware’s other GP practice, the Church Street Surgery, were ‘not fit for purpose going forward’, although Dr Kite, who is a member of the CCG, disputes this.

However, he conceded that the Dolphin House Surgery was not able to accommodate more doctors in its current premises. As an interim solution, he has suggested that they run services from a spare consulting room in his own practice, but said that this was ‘not a long-term fix.’

Although GPs are due to meet for a second time with NHS England’s local area team and CCG in January, Dr Kite said it was a ‘great shame’ that they were not being offered more help.

He said: ‘No-one’s planning ahead. The major issue is that the area team have responsibility for GP premises, but the budget has disappeared. Who’s going to pay for upgrades, refurbishments, new premises?

‘The budget has disappeared, so now CCGs are being approached to see if they can take that on. But they’re not going to take on premises – they’re going to take on service redesign.’

A spokesperson for East and North Hertfordshire CCG said: ‘The CCG and the area team are both aware of the affected GP’s concerns for the future of his patients. He is working proactively with GP colleagues in the area to find a solution which meets the needs of all the patients in the town.

‘The CCG is considering its future involvement in primary care co-commissioning with the local area team. This will enable both organisations to plan together for high quality and resilient GP services which meet patients’ needs now and in the future.’

Dominic Cox, director of commissioning for NHSE’s Hertfordshire and South Midlands area team, said: ‘ If the GP does decide to resign the contract, we will use the appropriate contractual and commissioning options that are available to us.

‘We are committed to working with East and North Hertfordshire CCG and local GPs on a joint co-commissioning strategy, to ensure that patients can continue to access high-quality local primary care services.’