A draft primary care plan published by Dorset CCG proposes to reduce the number of GP locations across the county from 131 to as few between 36 and 69.
The plans would see the existing 97 practices, which work across 131 sites - consolidated into practice networks delivering core services at fewer locations supported by centralised primary care hubs. Superpractices could also be developed in some localities.
By 2021 the CCG said it will look to commission services from integrated accountable care organisations such as multispecialty community providers (MCPs) or primary and acute care systems (PACS).
Local Liberal Democrats have launched a petition against the plans. ‘These reductions are shockingly large and will [a]ffect thousands of local residents,' the petition said. ‘We call on the Dorset CCG to fully consult the public on their proposals.’
But the CCG has denied it plans to close practices. The proposals, it said, are a consideration of how services could be delivered in future, but it will remain up to practices themselves whether they choose to merge.
Healthwatch Dorset manager Martyn Webster called for a ‘clear explanation’ from the CCG as to what was being proposed. ‘We're all going to be very worried when we get a whiff of plans which could lead to some [practices] closing,' he said.
People, he said, ‘know that "consolidation of sites" means some of the surgeries people currently go to closing’.
Councillor for Christchurch David Jones told a recent meeting of the Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee the plan was ‘really, really devastating in its coverage’, the local press reported.
A statement by Dorset CCG said: ‘We want to be absolutely clear that we have no plans to close any practices and any claims that we do are inaccurate. We are in fact actively working across Dorset to support practices where they are facing the greatest pressures.
Primary care workload
‘Primary care faces a number of challenges in the future, and if we continue as we are doing, our workforce and finances could soon become overstretched.
‘The draft primary care commissioning strategy and plan considers how services could be delivered differently to ensure they are safe and sustainable for the future; for example consolidation of sites or back-office functions. This draft version of the strategy which is on our website has been circulated to key stakeholders to gain their views.
‘Our ongoing strategy is to work with local groups of practices to help shape the way in which we will deliver services to meet future population needs. This includes looking at how we would support new models of care.
‘It is up to individual GP surgeries to decide whether to merge or not as they are independent contractors, we cannot force any change.
‘We have been listening to the pressures that general practice faces and it is clear that practices will have to work together and explore new ways of working and looking at transforming the way care is delivered if we want to ensure that services are sustainable in the future.’