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Third of practices in single town close lists to new patients

Several practices in a small town have been allowed to refuse to register any new patients, due to the domino effect from closures in the area.

Seven of the eight practices in Folkestone told NHS South Kent Coast CCG they wanted to close their patient lists en masse, after recruitment and funding problems caused the closure of Folkestone East Family practice – covering 5,000 patients – three months ago.

Pulse has now learnt that three practices closest to the Folkestone East Family practice have been allowed to close their lists temporarily to new patients, and another is planning to close a branch surgery.

Folkestone is part of a growing number of towns that have had to close their lists en masse, including Bridlington in East Riding of Yorkshire and the Three Towns area in Ayrshire, Scotland. However, many others are considering a similar move – survey of GP practices by the BMA revealed half of practices were willing to close their lists in response to the pressures facing general practice.

The CCG said that the three practices are set to reopen their lists in 12 weeks’ time and that it may need to allocate ‘a small number of patients’ to these practices if there are no other surgeries close that are accepting patients.

A CCG spokesperson said: ‘NHS South Kent Coast CCG can confirm that there are three practices with formally closed lists in Folkestone (Guildhall Street, New Surgery and Park Farm). All three are due to re-open in approximately 12 weeks’ time.

‘During the closure period the CCG may need to allocate a small number of patients to these practices where there are no other surgeries that cover a patient’s home address area that have open lists. Four further practices in Folkestone have fully open lists and are actively taking on patients directly (Sandgate Road, Manor Clinic, White House and Hawkinge Health Centre).’

But the Hawkinge Health Centre – which provides care for 2,732 patients across two sites which are five miles apart – is also planning to close its branch surgery after a bid to expand the premises fell through, and it was not CQC ‘compliant’.

In a letter to patients, GP principal and sole provider for The Surgery Dr Zaw Thike said: ‘We are aware that this will not be a popular decision with some patients, however we have explored many options [and] there is no viable way forward.’

A NHS South Kent CCG spokesperson said: ‘The practice also has a number of wider concerns about running a small village branch surgery in the longer term relating to patient safety, CQC compliance and financial viability.  

‘Subsequently, the surgery has applied to close their branch surgery and is currently undertaking a patient and stakeholder consultation exercise which they will report on as part of their final application to the CCG.’

Patients have until 9 February 2018 to share their views on the proposal.