An APMS contract tender has been launched for the embattled Lake District GP practice which saw its partners hand back their GMS contract this summer.
Partners at the Central Lakes Medical Group were forced to throw in the towel in August due to the weight of workload related to unregistered tourists, for which they no longer receive top-up funding.
Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB is now seeking a long-term provider for the practice on an APMS contractual basis, confirming fears by the local MP.
In August, the partners of Central Lakes Medical Group handed their contract back after commissioners withdrew £70k in atypical funding to finance tourist service. The Lake District practice sees an additional 2,000 to 2,500 tourists, which it receives no money for, along with their patient list between 5,000 and 6,000.
Last month, the ICB funded a £170,000 tourist triage phone line, instead of the money going to local GP services. And in an interview with Pulse last week, former Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron expressed his concerns regarding local practices being run via an APMS contract.
‘Worst of all, the contract could go to an out-of-area business that can afford to do things on the cheap and we’d end up in a situation that’s only one or two degrees better than losing the surgeries altogether,’ Mr Farron said.
He also warned that a move to a larger provider would run the risk of losing local knowledge.
‘The perfect situation is that the current GPs unresign and take on a practice with a contract that works. But as things stand, I find it hard to see how the ICB’s approach to this won’t make the service worse,’ he added.
The APMS contract will be for both branches of the Central Lakes Medical Practice, Ambleside and Hawkshead Medical Centres. There is a separate APMS contract currently out for procurement for the Waterloo House Surgery in Millom at the same time.
Peter Higgins, Lancashire and Cumbria Consortium of LMCs chief executive, told Pulse: ‘Every attempt was made to engage local practices in supporting Central Lakes but they all thought the risk of finding a collective solution was too great.
‘The local federation did attempt to offer a support package but this failed for similar reasons.
‘We are now advised that the market testing exercise by the ICB has been successful with quite a few interested parties, both local and further afield.’
He added: ‘We continue to work with the ICB to develop a strategy to support rural practices so that we can anticipate such issues in advance and have in place mechanisms of support so that it doesn’t always result in a re-procurement exercise.’
An ICB spokesperson told Pulse: ‘The ICB had the contract handed back by Central Lakes Medical Group and having considered all available options, it was determined that in order to ensure the continuation of primary medical services to the patient population, a new provider needed to be sourced through a procurement process.
‘This meant that the only option open to the ICB, in line with NHS England’s policies and guidance, was for a new APMS contract to be offered.’
From 1 January until 31 March 2023, a locally-based primary care provider, Cumbria Health on Call (CHoC), will provide a temporary APMS contract to deliver primary medical services at Central Lakes Medical Group on an interim basis, until the long-term provider is identified, the ICB added.