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GPs dumped with blood testing bill

Exclusive Practices have been hit by tens of thousands of excess costs after being forced to provide phlebotomy services that have been withdrawn by their local hospital without notifying GPs.

GPs in Kent say they are losing thousands after a surge of underfunded work from the local hospital, and have been threatened with sanctions by their PCT if they stop providing the service.

The move comes as the GPC continues to gather evidence on the ‘epidemic' volume of unfunded work being shifted from secondary care.

Kent LMC says 16 practices in Maidstone have given six months notice to withdraw their provision of phlebotomy services due to lack of funding, with one practice quoting costs of £22,000 to provide this service.

The LMC said the issue had worsened since Maidstone and Tonbridge Wells Trust had ‘withdrawn paediatric phlebotomy services without notifying GPs' and was now requiring a full referral for children requiring a blood test.

Dr Paul Hobday, a GP in Maidstone member of Kent LMC, said NHS West Kent had threatened sanctions if his practice did not provide the service, even though he had lost ‘at least a five figure sum'.

He said: ‘We have been doing something out of goodwill, and just because of that, now they are saying we can't withdraw it and we're not going to pay you for it either, even though we're paying the practice next door for it.'

‘To add insult to injury, we are having the local hospital close their phlebotomy service for GPs and sending work to us without asking.'

Dr Graham Hagan, a GP in Maidstone who estimates his practice has lost a total of £22,000 from providing the service, said: ‘This is not to make a profit, it is just to cover the costs. The last thing we want to do is withdraw the service, but the costs are going up.'

A spokesman for Maidstone and Tonbridge Wells NHS Trust said the trust was ‘working with its local commissioners to provide a service that meets the needs of GPs and patients alike'.

It added: ‘The Trust is providing GPs with ad hoc support in the short time it should take to set up new and better ways of working.'

Other recent cases of increasing workload include GPs in North Staffordshire who have had funding for a Choose and Book LES removed and practice nurses forced to take on leg ulcer removal work after the local provider stopped providing the service.

NHS Berkshire said it did not want to leave a ‘legacy' for clinical commissioning groups, but Berkshire LMC called it a ‘unilateral transfer of work without recognising the need for training, time and expertise'.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator and a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, who has presented a dossier of underfunded work to GPC, said the amount of work being dumped on primary care without resources was ‘reaching epidemic proportions'.

How dare the hospitals do this?' he said. ‘It's the sheer bloody check and impudence. It's just not acceptable.'

Unfunded work being dumped on GPs

  • Paediatric phlebotomy testing
  • Leg ulcer removal work
  • Arranging and carrying out ECG scans
  • Conducting pre-anaesthetic checks
  • Follow-up checks on coils fitted by hospitals
  • Arranging recall and follow-up care
  • Wound re-dressing and post-op care work

Source: GPC dossier