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Practices across entire town close lists as fears grow general practice will ‘go under’

Exclusive There are fears that general practice in one English town could ‘go under’, with five practices having closed their list and a sixth practice set to close for good, potentially leaving 7,000 patients without a GP practice.

All six practices in the north Yorkshire coastal town of Bridlington have stopped registering patients, and they told Pulse their plans to ‘rebirth’ health care in the town are under threat.

Local GP leaders have warned the entire primary care system could ‘go under’ if NHS England can’t find a new provider to take on Field House Surgery when the current provider hands back its contract.

The remaining practices in the town – which has a population of around 35,000 and is struggling with the demands of an elderly population as well as a lack of GP workforce – are hoping to receive funding from NHS England for a £10.8million Health and Wellbeing Centre to house several of the practices.

One Medical Group took over Field House – which has a practice list of 7,000 –  two years ago and hoped to receive support funding from NHS England’s vulnerable practice fund but were unsuccessful in its bid.

It handed back its contract in October, and NHS England told Pulse no new provider was forthcoming after a ‘comprehensive’ procurement process, with a final decision to be made very soon.

Dr Mike Hardman, a GP and executive chair of the BridInc federation – which comprises five of the practices – told Pulse that the situation in Bridlington was a ‘perfect storm’ with patients leaving Field House increasing the pressure on the rest of the practices.

Dr Hardman said: ‘We’ve been trying to improve services, but we’ve got to the point where we can’t take on new patients and we’re all at absolute maximum, so all the practices are closed.

‘So in five weeks’ time, if NHS England can’t find a new provider, we might have this list forced upon us which will mean you’ve suddenly got 1,500 more patients when you’re not taking any, we don’t know how we’d do it.’

But Dr Hardman says the local practices, CCG, and NHS England have been given initial approval for the £10.8million Health and Wellbeing Centre, for which they are in the process of doing due diligence and refining the business case.

This would house several of the towns practices, and give space for out-patient clinics – a priority for Jeremy Hunt’s vision of ‘one-stop shop’ general practice – and social prescribing.

He told Pulse: ‘The idea is to provide Bridlington with a world leading facility; we’ve also got our first GP trainees for 20 years in Bridlington, starting in February. We’re starting to rebirth Bridlington, we hope, but we have this terrible, terrible destabilising force that threatens it all.’

Dr Zoe Norris, GPC salaried and sessional lead and a GP locum in the region, told Pulse if the patients were dispersed to practices already under pressure then ‘potentially the entire primary care system of this town will go under.’

She added: ‘I don’t know what the population of Brid is, but over the summer there are thousands as well, and many of these patients are frail, elderly with multi-morbidities greater than the national average.

‘I’ve always said Bridlington will be the first place where the whole town goes under.’

Heather Marsh, head of primary care co-commissioning at NHS England (North Yorkshire and the Humber) said: ‘The current service provider… contract is due to end on 31 December 2016.

‘NHS England has carried out a comprehensive procurement process to identify a new provider for the service. Unfortunately, we have received no bids from other companies to deliver services at the premises and ourselves and NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG are now working closely with local GP practices and providers to review all potential options.’

Jane Hawkard, chief officer, NHS East Riding of Yorkshire CCG said: ‘We have been working with NHS England to find a solution which best fits with the new integrated health and wellbeing model that ourselves, GP practices in Bridlington, our community services provider and social care want to deliver.

‘The new integrated service model will ensure a sustainable future for health and care services in Bridlington.’

Earlier this month Pulse revealed that the loss of four partners from one practice in Portadown, Northern Ireland threatened to bring down the local primary care system.