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Patients campaign to keep single-hander GP practice open

Patients have launched a passionate campaign to save their local single-hander GP practice, which is closing because funding cuts had made it ‘unviable’.

The 2,500-patient Queens Road Medical Centre in Leicester, which is run by Dr Jonathan Lenten and has a five-star rating from patients on NHS Choices, converted from a PMS to a GMS contract one year ago.

It is due to close on 1 April but patients have started a patient Facebook group, an online petition, a leafleting campaign and are lobbying local politicians in a bid to save it.

A lead patient campaigner suggested NHS Leicester City CCG had an agenda to only support GP practices working in larger surgeries – an allegation denied by the CCG. 

Patient campaigner Katy Wheatley told Pulse patients had received two letters: ’One was from the CCG which said that it was with great regret they had to inform us that Dr Lenten has “chosen” to resign and that they would help us find a new surgery.’

The other, from Dr Lenten’s surgery, said it was ’with great regret and heartfelt disappointment that I have to tell you that I will be closing my surgery… I would have liked to have carried on serving the community for another 10 years but sadly this is not viable’. 

Ms Wheatley said this was ’a very different take on things’.

According to Ms Wheatley, the surgery had been unable to ‘carry on economically because of all the cuts’ and despite pleas for funding, ‘because he was a small practice with one GP he wasn’t getting anywhere… the CCG did nothing’.

The CCG said there were ‘misunderstandings’ around the practice closure from its patients, with a spokesperson saying that the practice ’did not raise any issues about their financial situation with the CCG between 1 April and 31 December 2015, the date when Dr Lenten’s resignation of the contract was received by the CCG’.

They added that there is no strategy of only supporting larger practices: ’On the contrary, we are supporting all of our city practices, large and small, to work creatively and in some cases collaboratively with others so that they can provide additional care for patients.’

CCG chair Professor Azhar Farooqi said: ‘We are extremely disappointed when any practice takes the difficult decision to close. This is the second practice closure we have seen in Leicester recently, which may be an indication of the acute pressures facing general practice.  

’Funding for practices has not increased in line with their workloads over the last ten years, which is causing GPs to think about their continued role in the profession and is having an impact on whether newly qualified doctors choose to work in general practice in the first place.’

The Stop Practice Closures campaign has been highlighting the numbers of practices that are unsustainable, and has been calling on commissioners to provide funding for practices on the brink.

Pulse this month revealed that around 600 practices could be in line for a share of the £10m NHS England fund for struggling practices – but the GPC has warned that this may not be enough.