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Seventh practice in under two years set to close in English city

Yet another GP practice has closed in Brighton, bringing the total number of closures up to seven in less than two years, covering more than 30,000 patients. 

Some 2,300 patients have been left with instructions to temporarily rely on a local walk-in centre after the GP principal at singlehanded Lewes Road Surgery handed back their contract.

It follows four practices in the city closing last year, while two more closed in 2015, with one GP partner telling Pulse it was ‘like a bereavement’.

Local leaders said that it is creating further pressure in an area that already has ‘significant capacity problems’.

NHS England said in a letter to patients that Lewes Road Surgery principal Dr Amrut Shah was ‘stepping down with immediate effect’ following ‘discussions over Christmas’.

It further admitted that it was likely patients may have to register elsewhere by the end of this month to ‘guarantee’ their ‘ongoing care’.

The letter, from NHS England South East director of commissioning Sarah Macdonald, said: ‘Lewes Road Surgery is working with locum GPs to provide some urgent appointments, but this is dependent on the availability of locum GPs.

‘It is likely that we will need to ask you to register with another local GP practice in order to guarantee your ongoing care after 31 January.’

She added that NHS England is ‘working with other local GP practices to make sure we have an up to date list of which individual practices can register new patients’.

Dr Julius Parker, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex LMCs, said: ‘Obviously it’s another practice closing, it’s another dispersal in an area that has significant capacity problems. And as you know there have been a number of practices whose patients have been dispersed over the last 18 months.

It creates further pressure in an already stretched service. The LMC has worked closely with NHS England in terms of supporting practices who will need to re-register patients from Lewes Road Surgery.’

The practice is the latest in a string of Brighton closures that have uprooted more than 30,000 patients in the past two years.

This included 10,000 patients losing their GP in one go as the Practice Group handed back four PMS contracts last year after a funding review.

A year earlier, NHS England was forced to offer practices £25 for every patient they registered following the sudden closure of the 6,000-patient Eaton Place Surgery.

And in the same year 10,000 patients had to be relocated to another practice after the CQC closed Goodwood Court Medical Centre with immediate effect.

Help for struggling practices

NHS England has pledged millions to help GP practices at risk of closure, following Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign.

Its £10m Vulnerable Practice Fund was supposed to have been fully pledged by the end of 2016, and NHS England’s director of primary care said last month that between this and the £40m Practice Resilience Programme pledged in the GP Forward View, some 2,000 practices would have been bailed out by the end of March.

But, the promises have come at the same time as managers have said practices that do not conform to NHS England’s agenda for all GP practices to federate or merge to operate ‘at scale’ could ‘be left to fail and wither’.

Although NHS England has denied that this is its national policy, reports of closures of small practices keep coming in from around the country.

Pulse revealed in December that at least 16,000 patients would be losing their GP practice over the holiday period, and that six in 10 GPs say morale has deteriorated since the publication of the GP Forward View.

For advice on how to access the Practice Resilience Programme, read Pulse’s full guide