Three GP premises in Southampton are set to close due to financial and recruitment problems, amid plans for the future of general practice in the city that include a reduction in the number of practices.
The Newtown surgery closed at the end of June while The Bargate, a branch of St Mary’s Surgery, is expected to close later this year. Regents Park Surgery will close for clinical use and merge with the Grove Medical Practice in January 2017, the CCG has said.
Local leaders said that practices are finding it difficult to work over separate sites due to problems with funding.
A number of ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ – the blueprints for the future of the NHS, being drawn up by every region in England – have highlighted plans to reduce the numbers of practices, and create larger practices.
Pulse reported yesterday that commissioners in North East London plan to ensure there are no practices with patient lists of under 10,000.
NHS Southampton CCG’s ‘Primary Care Strategy’ had stressed that it had ‘no plans’ to ‘enforce the closure or merger of any GP practices’ and said that the paper was based on ‘trends observed around the country’.
And already, it has approved plans for three surgeries to close, while mergers are continuing at a great pace.
The CCG has given the go ahead for the merger of the Adelaide Centre, Portswood Surgery and Nicholstown Surgery which will form the Solent GP Surgery from 1 April 2017. The different sites will remain open as branches of the practice.
Dr Nigel Watson, chair of Wessex LMVC said that the merger of the practices was a response to the financial, recruitment and retention problems faced by general practice.
Dr Watson said: ‘St Mary’s is a large surgery [where the partners hold a] PMS contract and have had their funding reduced under the PMS reviews. Adelaide, Portswood and Nicholstown are all APMs practices run by Solent Health – the community provider and again working from one site makes sense.
‘Practices who work over more than one site need to review this as the formula for funding does not take account of the increased cost of delivering a service from more than one site.’
Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign
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Pulse has been pressing for immediate support for vulnerable practices across the UK since 2014 through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.
NHS England announced a new tranche of £16 million of funding to support struggling practices this year.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the fund in his ‘new deal’ last year, and NHS England said in December that practices with poor CQC ratings or higher-than-average referrals and prescribing would be prioritised.
But Pulse has revealed that practices are still closing, with one practice closing while it was waiting for vulnerable practice funding.