11,000 patients told to find a new GP as four practices close

Four practices serving around 11,000 patients in west Lincolnshire are set to close in January after a provider run by a GP federation and a foundation trust quit the contracts after just a year.

Lincolnshire West CCG said it was unable to award new contracts because the practices were not financially viable and would now be closed in the new year. Patients have been told to find a new GP.

Previous provider Universal Health Ltd handed back its contracts in August blaming ‘financial difficulties’. The provider was a joint venture set up by GP federation and provider, Lincolnshire and District Medical Services, and NHS social care provider, Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, to rescue and stabilise the struggling practices it took over under APMS contracts in April 2015.

At least one of the practices had previously been threatened with closure by NHS England.

According to a local council report, the practices struggled with recruitment and retention of GPs and locum costs. The new provider had planned to expand the skill mix and services offered at the practices.

GP recruitment

Universal Health Ltd subsequently handed back its contracts in August also blaming the financial pressures of the staffing problems and locum costs.

The practices have been run in the interim by the Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust.

Lincolnshire West CCG chief operating officer Sarah Newton said: ‘Unfortunately, we were not in a position to offer a contract to any of the bidders. Patients are the key priority and we could not risk a repeat of the uncertainty they were in, back in August. And we simply could not be in a position where practices were not financially viable again. It is not fair on patients and it is not fair on staff.

‘Across the four practices, there will overall be 13 other practices for patients to choose an alternative service from. So long as they live within the practice boundary, the patients have complete choice as to where they go.’

Senior NHS officials have warned that when vulnerable practices fall over, a 'domino effect' can be triggered as extra pressure on neighbouring surgeries puts them at risk.

GPonline reported yesterday on warnings from a Bristol MP that urgent action was needed to safeguard primary care. A practice in her constituency was forced to close after a third provider in two years walked away.

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