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Practice faces closure as PCT suggests sending patients to A&E

There is a time for flippancy and humour in these weekly blogs, but not today.

Today it is time to be serious, the issues are serious, the consequences serious, and this episode illustrates the serious position in which GPs may likely find themselves.

Last week, I mentioned a practice whose funding is going to be cut to a level where the partners will be having their profits reduced to £60,000. In fact it is worse than that, after two years, profits will now be reducing to just over £46,000 per partner. These cuts are due to start biting in six weeks.

Meanwhile, the practice is still waiting for its promised visit from the PCT to explain the changes, and have not been consulted by the LMC which negotiated the changes on behalf of the GPs.

Now let me re-iterate, this is a good practice, good GPs, high quality service spending a lot of resources on providing services to their patients. It is the kind of practice you would want your family to join.

Late last week, we met with the PCT. I say we, that is the two partners, their MP, me, a solicitor from a well known firm of GP solicitors and the practice manager. The PCT were represented by just one person. Let’s leave the cynicism out of this for the moment.

The practice stated that if these cuts were made, the practice would not be viable in its present guise. The practice explained that it currently has more than 600 consultations per week across the frontline staff. The PCT representative looked up and explained that the funding plan agreed between the PCT and the LMC only accommodated 290 consultations per week.

What about the rest?  - send them to A&E or the walk in centre was the PCT reply. But what about the cost asked the practice manager? A consultation at A&E is five times the reduction per patient the PCT are making. What about my constituents asked the MP? What about our practice asked the partners? The PCT responded that this is the agreement reached…..blah blah and there are no plans to change this. No safety net to save good practices like this to be put out of business on a misguided whim.

There are several important questions to be answered here, but the conclusion of this episode is that a good practice with good GPs is likely to be closed for no good reason. In fact bad reasons. What is the practice doing about it? Everything it can.

Is this a preview of the new world of commissioning? Is this an example of the GPs being protected by their representatives? As I have said before, forget the issue of industrial action over the increased costs of GPs pensions, there is no public support, the patients will just be irritated and you are going to lose. This is the issue, the continued disempowerment of general practice.

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