Single-handed GPs are facing relocation in row over premises

Single-handed GPs in north London are being threatened with closure, unless they move into premises larger than an average semi-detached house.

Barnet PCT has told Dr Kenneth Dodds that he must find a building with at least 250 square metres of floor space, or he will lose his contract. 'None of the practices in the area come up to that figure,' he said.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman, another Barnet GP, says nearly a fifth of the area's practices are under similar pressure. Dr Dodds was forced to vacate his previous premises last winter when his lease ran out.

The PCT then wrote to all the practice's patients to inform them that if he could not find a larger building, it would 'make alternative arrangements with other practices for your continued medical care'.

Dr Dodds borrowed £58,000 against his own home to renovate a site at the back of a shop. This added 30 square metres to the practice, but it now measures only 137 square metres in total.

The PCT accepted the new site as a stop-gap after a campaign by Dr Dodds' patients. But it says it will keep the situation under review and make a final decision in April 2010.

'I just want to carry on here without the PCT using hitherto unapplied laws to cut short a career,' said Dr Dodds. He added that the PCT wants to 'snuff out smaller practices'.

Dr Buckman said 25 of the PCT's 128 practices had received similar threats.

However, the threats may be empty. 'It can't stop paying,' he pointed out. 'What it is threatening, it cannot do.'

The PCT denied that it had threatened to remove any contracts, and said it had no legal power to do so.

Deputy chief executive Alison Blair said: 'Patients are entitled to expect care to be delivered in an environment that respects privacy and dignity.'

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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