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Recruitment crisis forces GP collaborative to hand back contracts on six practices

A not-for-profit company set up by GPs has been forced to end its contracts with six practices, due to problems recruiting permanent GPs.

Primary Care Connect manages six Liverpool practices and had a fix-term contract for each until the end of March 2020, but will now stop running them in June this year.

Liverpool CCG announced the GPs’ decision to give six months’ notice in January, and said it is now working to ‘minimise any uncertainty’ for patients.

Primary Care Connect, which has been managing the six GP practices since April 2017, is a collaborative comprised of five Liverpool-based GP practices, the Liverpool General Practice Provider Organisation and Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

In a statement the CCG said Primary Care Connect was bringing its contracts to an end early ‘because of problems recruiting permanent doctors’.

It also stated the company was ‘having to rely on temporary doctors’ which had ‘created financial problems’.

The situation was particularly challenging for Primary Care Connect’s practices because it has a relatively small list of patients, meaning it is paid less, the CCG explained.

Liverpool GP and NHS Liverpool CCG chair Dr Fiona Lemmens said: ‘We are working hard to get to a decision about what happens next, so that we minimise any uncertainty.

‘It’s really important to stress that however we decide to move forward with these practices, all Liverpool patients will continue to have a GP practice. There is no suggestion of reducing GP services in Liverpool; this process is purely about which practices those services are provided from.’

The CCG is now investigating whether it can find someone else to run each practice, or if it needs to transfer patients to other practices nearby.

An update is expected in March.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey called the situation in Liverpool ‘concerning’, and said despite Government promises there remains a shortfall of GPs across the UK.

He said: ‘It is concerning that an organisation running six GP practices in a large city like Liverpool has ended its contract with the NHS because they cannot find enough GPs to permanently staff their services.’

He also warned the impact of Brexit could make it potentially harder for EU doctors to work in the UK, which would only make the situation worse.

‘In the recently announced changes to the GP contract, the Government recognised workforce issues need to be addressed. This now needs to be delivered rapidly and practically, or patient care will only continue to decline,’ he added.

The new five-year GP contract promised more than 20,000 extra primary care staff will be recruited and funded by NHS England to support GPs, but admitted that the 5,000 extra GPs by 2020 target is unlikely to happen.

The six Liverpool practices affected are:

  • Primary Care Connect Everton Road
  • Primary Care Connect Anfield Health
  • Primary Care Connect Garston
  • Primary Care Connect Netherley Health Centre
  • Primary Care Connect West Speke
  • Primary Care Connect Park View

Last year Pulse revealed over a million patients had to move surgeries in the last five years due to practice closures, with nearly 450 GP surgeries closing over that period.

Primary Care Connect has been contacted for comment.