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Practices forced to re-open patient lists after closure of neighbouring surgery

GP practices in one area have had to re-open their practice lists, which were temporarily closed to new patients, to absorb over 7,000 patients that are set to be displaced by a practice closure.

Arun Medical Group’s Littlehampton branch will close on 31 October, with NHS Coastal West Sussex CCG set to disperse its 7,070 patients registered across neighbouring practices, despite these already being under pressure themselves.

The CCG said it will write to patients to ask them to register at neighbouring practices, after these ‘agreed’ to lift their temporary list closures to accommodate them.

Arun Medical Group’s GP partners gave formal notice that they were handing back their contract in May 2016 and the CCG had been considering options until reached the decision earlier this week not to attempt to re-tender the contract.

Sarah Henley, head of primary care at NHS West Sussex CCG said: ‘It is a difficult time for general practice in Arun and we are working very closely with the existing practices in Littlehampton and surrounding area to ensure they have the support and mechanisms in place to take on the additional patients from Arun Medical Group.

‘GP practices in Arun have temporarily closed their lists but I can confirm that practices have agreed to open them.’

Arun Medical Group’s GP partners said that closing had been a difficult decision and they ‘truly wished’ that they had ‘been able to find a way to stay open’ but they were left with no choice but to close due to recruitment woes.

They said in a statement: ‘Like many GP practices all over the UK we have struggled to recruit new GPs and with the increase in demand for GP services in Littlehampton we just don’t have enough doctors to safely provide the high level of quality care patients are used to.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, said: ‘The local CCG must ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to the remaining practices – and that they invest properly in them to ensure they have the capacity to expand and meet the needs of the patient population they are now serving.’

He added: ‘It also shows how the promises NHS England has made in the GP Forward View can’t wait five years to be realised, they have to start that investment flow now because if they don’t make those savings now it will cost them more in the long run.’

Pulse has been calling for urgent funding and support to be made available to support practices on the brink with it’s Stop Practice Closures campaign. 

Though it has come too late for many practices, NHS England has since reocognised more than 800 practices are in crisis and Jeremy Hunt announced a vulnerable practice fund last year.

This was overhauled in the GP Forward View and relaunched this month with a £16m funding pot this year, and without a previous requirement for practices to match NHS England’s investment.