LMC warns of 'domino effect' as practices face closure or takeover

LMC leaders have warned of a domino effect as a struggling GP practice became the fifth within year to face takeover by a local health board in north Wales.

GPonline reported last week that the 6,500-patient Forge Road Surgery in Wrexham will be taken over by the local health board in December after its three partners gave notice on their contract. Forge Road Surgery became the third practice in Wrexham in a year to face takeover by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which currently controls eight practices in north Wales.

New analysis by the BMA published this week warned that almost one in five practices in Wales were at risk of closure, had been taken over by a health board, or had already closed in the last two years.

North Wales LMC chair Dr Eamonn Jessup told GPonline while it was not possible to say for sure whether a ‘domino effect’ had taken hold in Wrexham and north Wales ‘it's looking like it’.

GP recruitment

‘GP principals are retiring and in spite of lots of advertising there are no significant good quality GPs coming forward to take over,' he said. ‘This is in fact the 5th in Wrexham area I think this year.’

There are ‘fears for all of primary care’ in north Wales working in the traditional model, said Dr Jessup. While patients will still have access to a GP at health board controlled practices, he said, access is ‘likely to be more challenging in these new model practices’.

‘Across north Wales there are at least 12 practices now being long-term managed or about to become so,' he added.

Meanwhile, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has said it is supporting a practice in nearby Corwen, Denbighshire after GPs said they faced closure following the withdrawal of £52,000 rural support funding.

NHS takeover

Dr Graham Thomas, one of two partners at the 4,000-patient practice, told the local press he feared the practice would be taken over by the health board for a second time following a period under its control in 2013/14.

The rural support funding was agreed as a short-term top up when the practice's GMS contract was signed in 2014. The partners have asked the board to extend this funding and are understood to have made an aplication to the GP Sustainability Assessment Framework 

A spokeswoman for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: ‘We are working in partnership with the practice to agree ongoing funding support, in line with the Welsh government’s GP Sustainability Assessment Framework.

‘This will help the practice continue to provide a service for residents in Corwen and the surrounding area. We are also finalising payment for additional cardiology services provided by the practice.

‘There is no change to our commitment to a make a significant investment into the redevelopment of Corwen Health Centre, and we are currently tendering for contractors to finalise the plans for the development.’

Warnings over practices facing closure come as the Welsh government announced that an incentive scheme to attract doctors to GP training in Wales has helped to secure a 100% fill rate for posts in both North Wales East and North Wales East.

Photo: iStock

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