Controversial plans to save £6m by closing and merging GP practices given go ahead

NHS Peterborough's unpopular plan to close one GP practice and merge six others in order to save money has been given the go ahead by its board.

NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough’s joint board was presented with three options to reform out-of-hours and primary care services in Peterborough. But only one option, the third, achieved NHS Peterborough’s savings target of £6m over five years.

The PCT-preferred third option, now accepted by the board, will close two practices - the Alma Road walk-in clinic and the Burghley Road surgery, merge the Lincoln Road and North Street practices into one, and merge four other practices into one new health centre in Dogsthorpe.

According to the board, the plans will release savings of over £1m a year which will be reinvested into other health services in Peterborough.

Due to the strength of public feeling about the plans during the public consultation, the proposals were modified to ensure that the Alma Road clinic will remain open until a new urgent care service is up and running, the PCT said.

When the public consultation was announced, 3Well Medical, a GP-led company which owns the Alma Road medical centre, submitted a 14-page response to the PCT’s consultation, detailing its objections.

It said that reducing the number of GP practices in the area and closing the walk-in centre would ‘lead to further large increases in A&E attendances’.

The plans were also subjected to an investigation by the cooperation and competition panel (CCP) following a complaint from 3Well Medical that the plans would have an adverse effect on patient choice and competition in primary and urgent care services.

The panel found that the involvement of two GPs in the process ‘was not appropriate in circumstances where those clinicians were associated with providers that would be directly affected, and might gain, from the process itself’.

In order to remedy the situation the CCP said it would be appropriate for either the RCGP or the NHS clinical commissioning community to appoint a panel of independent clinicians to review the process.

The RCGP suggested that the Collingham Healthcare Education Centre (CHEC) in Nottinghamshire might be in a position to convene a suitable panel on its behalf. A CHEC review carried out by Professor Mike Pringle, Dr Christine Johnson, Miss Julie Reid and Ms Jacqui Smith was presented to NHS Peterborough in March.

The group concluded that: 'The three options were fairly expressed and based on clinical logic...but that either the original or the recently revised option 3 (the recommended change) would be clinically desirable and appropriate.'

Chief executive of NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough Dr Sushil Jathanna said: ‘The redesigned urgent care services and the four new health centres are important steps forward in ensuring the NHS in Peterborough meets the changing needs of our growing population.

‘The vast majority of urgent minor health problems are managed by GP surgeries. This strategy makes sure GPs have the facilities to enable them to provide these and many other patient services.’

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