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ICB funds £170,000 tourist phone line instead of local GP services

ICB funds £170,000 tourist phone line instead of local GP services

A tourist triage phone line costing £170,000 is being funded by an ICB, instead of the money going to local GP services.

Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) withdrew £73,000 of funding from Central Lakes Medical Group to finance the tourist service, forcing partners at its Ambleside and Hawkshead practices to hand back their contract last month.

Now that plans for the tourist service have been revealed, local people have reacted with disbelief.

A proposal document from NHS Morecambe CCG in June this year, seen by Pulse, said: ‘To support the local tourist population it is proposed that a dedicated telephone triage line is provided between the hours of 8am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday during peak tourist periods (13 weeks per year)’.

The number will be freephone and the service will ‘liaise with NHS secondary, community, primary and social care providers for the referral into their services as required’.

‘This service would aim to undertake clinical triage assessment and direct patients appropriately to relevant health services and where required,’ it said, with hopes of preventing ‘inappropriate access to local health services’.

Locally registered patients ‘would be excluded and asked to contact their own practice’, it added. 

The service would link up with existing out-of-hours provision for evening and weekend cover.

The document proposes the triage costs for the 13-week peak holiday season will be £106,268.

Two GP practices would also be chosen to ‘host dedicated tourist urgent care sessions throughout the peak holiday period, with walk-in access available’, the costs for which are estimated at £70,750.

A communications campaign costing £5,000 is also suggested, including ‘posters, information leaflets and credit card-sized “health service contacts card” for tourists’.

Hawkshead business owner Maria Whitehead, patient of the Central Lakes Medical Group and part of the patient participation group for the practice, wrote an open letter to Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB expressing her frustration.

The letter, seen by Pulse, said the funding withdrawal leading to the handing back of the GP contract was a ‘real kick in the teeth’ to Lake District residents.

She said it ‘beggars belief’ that the pilot for the tourist provision is based on ‘just 13 weeks of peak tourist season’.

Ms Whitehead wrote: ‘Can I ask you to envisage a moment when you are enjoying a day out in the Lakes and one member of your family suddenly becomes acutely unwell, what do you do? Do you look around for a poster that tells you to ring a number?’

She said that the local community have a ‘right’ to keep the continuity of having GPs they know, and know them, and said residents should not be ‘penalised’ for living in an area with lots of tourists.

She asked: ‘Can you hand on heart say that a telephone triage is the best way to assist people in a moment of crisis regardless of the cost?’ and ‘How is the funding going to work for a new set of GPs if it can’t work for those already running it?’

Ms Whitehead told Pulse she is yet to receive a response from her letter but that the patient participation group are hoping to have a public meeting with the ICB in due course to understand the rationale behind the funding withdrawal.

A spokesperson for the practice also previously told Pulse the tourist service was designed without input from local GPs.

They said: ‘The design of the pilot did not involve input by practices or PCN. The only funding available to practices was to provide additional sessions specifically for tourists which needed to be booked via the triage service.’

‘The practice would no longer control the triage of tourist access to its service.’

However, a Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB spokesperson said that ‘all practices within the Grange and Lakes PCN’ were ‘involved in designing the services’ to support both tourist and registered populations.

They added that ‘all sites across the PCN are offering extra appointments as part of this face-to-face tourism service pilot’ and that practices ‘will receive an income for this work’.

The ICB said a caretaker provider will run Central Lakes Medical Group from January until March next year, by which time a new GP provider will be confirmed.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said in a letter to the ICB, seen by Pulse, that he was ‘deeply concerned’ that an offer will be made by a private for-profit company to run the practices, which he said would be ‘devastating’ for the local communities.

He said: ‘I do not want a scenario where my constituents are forced to deal with a rotating cast of locum practitioners instead of a locally-led practice that provides strong continuity of service and care.’

Mr Farron also wrote to then-health secretary Steve Barclay asking for his support to ensure the practices ‘remain open and in the hands of local GPs’.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Simon Ruffle 14 September, 2022 12:28 pm

So this ICB has analysed the work that the GPs were doing for around 70K and decided it’s worth 170K. This is excellent news. Let’s hope they do the same for the rest of the services the Cumbrian GPs provide and pay 242% for the service

Truth Finder 14 September, 2022 12:48 pm

A broken system. The free NHS is not sustainable.

Richard Greenway 14 September, 2022 1:01 pm

So the ICB has paid £100K for a new service that only Triages (i.e. doesn’t see patients) – and only for 13 weeks.
This is already commissioned and paid for by 111
They then have to pay someone else 70K for 13 weeks, and lose another GP practice for the other 39 weeks a year.

No I still don’t get it.

Michael Mullineux 14 September, 2022 1:07 pm

I have complete faith in the chain of command ….
Patients and PPG -ignored; GP’s -ignored; MP – ignored
The shape of ICB decision making to arrive soon at a location near you.

Nick Mann 14 September, 2022 1:45 pm

So technically any UK resident not at home loses their right to standard NHS access and care. One hell of a precedent.
Ps, ‘Truth’ Finder: do your homework or change your handle to suit your misinformation.

Patrufini Duffy 14 September, 2022 3:59 pm

Here’s a fun Pulse research article.

Are UK GP practices being called by the public whilst they are abroad on holiday, because they don’t want to pay’.

That will add to this gimmick of “rights”. And holidaying, socialising, tomfoolery banter.

David Church 14 September, 2022 6:41 pm

So, that is obviously why local residents voted for the Government to install ICBs, because they understood and wanted this to happen.

David Church 14 September, 2022 6:44 pm

yes, why a dedicated phone line with a different number instead of 111?
Tourists can still call 111 anyway, because they are entitled to do so if registered at a GP surgery where 111 is the number to call for 111. (OK, in some places it is 454647, or something else).
They will probably remember 111 and use that anyway, making any special line with a different number about useless.
If they don;t remember 111, they will just call 999, like before.

Ian Jacobs 15 September, 2022 9:43 am

What is the definition of a tourist ? No- I am here seeing family/friends or meeting up with them in a mutually convenient location to catch up on important ( family/friend ) business. I am here on business- the business of shopping ( to keep the economy going ). I am here testing my eyesight- does striding edge look as clear and sharp to me as it used to ? Must see an optician afterwards. Visiting an old friend who happens to run a B&B/guest house/ campsite who has ” invited ” us back to catch up . So-no- not a tourist at all. This is a very worrying development . Duplicating resources can only very rarely improve efficiency. Already GP in hours services are duplicated ( to some extent ) by 111 , A&E ,chemists. GP out of hours services are ( to some extent ) duplicated by 111 / A&E/999 and other secondary care provision. If you find yourself spending time in The Lakes ( not being a tourist ) you still do have access to advice from your registered GP practice ( effectively creating more unfunded work for your own GP )and also 111 ( they don’t necessarily need to know where you are if using a mobile ) and @ Patrufini Duffy- yes- I stopped being a GP 10 years ago and it was not uncommon to receive calls from patients abroad . Almost the same-I saw a registered pt. who had become ill abroad but decided to wait until his return to seek medical attention. He was sitting in front of me on@ a Sat am emergency surgery 60 mins after his ‘plane touched down at Heathrow. He obviously ” knew the system ” @ Simon Ruffle @ Richard Greenway@ Nick Mann- this change needs much more publicity resulting in National news coverage ( suggest starting locally via social media/ newspapers/posters in GP’s surgeries/local TV and subsequently spreading far and wide into national media as this change has national implications including any pt registered in Scotland/Wales and NI.

Ian Jacobs 15 September, 2022 9:45 am

@ David Church- exactly.

Patrufini Duffy 15 September, 2022 1:58 pm

Don’t worry. One less practice. They’ll feel the heat soon when the non-medical drivel is no longer cleared up. Hope those Partners are on a beach or locuming for twice the pay at the hotline.

David jenkins 16 September, 2022 9:25 am

you couldn’t make this up !

if you were a martian, flying over this lot, you’d turn round and bugger off back to mars !!

David Jarvis 16 September, 2022 11:16 am

We are short of money and someone in NHS management is buggering about wasting what little we have. Sorry heads should really roll for this. I would also love to see the eventual cost of re-providing the GP service they have discarded. As a GP they do really seem to hate paying us to do things as seeing profit and income to partners as some heinous failure. The press articles finding the exceptional high earners. Maybe the press should troll the low earners and reflect on the poor investment in services in some areas of the country. Also looking at this they then might reflect on why patients can’t get appts. The simple answer is lack of investment in primary care along with a tax system that through uneven progression and AA/LTA issues is meaning that work doesn’t pay.