Social care provider slams bid to shut APMS practice as further five face closure

Social care bosses have hit out at plans to close a GP practice on the site of a retirement village, arguing that residents would lose their independence and could end up costing the NHS more.

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust argues that plans to shut a local practice could hit elderly residents (Photo: Paul Starr)
The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust argues that plans to shut a local practice could hit elderly residents (Photo: Paul Starr)

NHS England is consulting on plans to close the Hartfields Medical Practice in Hartlepool run by IntraHealth as part of a review of APMS contracts in the area.

Two further APMS services in the town face merging, and it has emerged that a further five across the Durham, Darlington and Tees area could be closed. Two other APMS practice could also be replaced.

The NHS England area team in the region has said many APMS contracts had list sizes significantly lower than expected and were less value for money than other contract types.

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, which runs the retirement village where Hartfields practice is sited, said it did not want to lose the GP service where most of its residents are registered.

A trust spokesman said: ‘Hartfields is an innovative model of how we can provide quality care and support for the future, linked to essential services like the on-site GP surgery.

‘Closure would have a detrimental impact on our residents, the vast majority of whom are registered at the practice. At the moment, they are able to walk to appointments, or attend them with help from carers.

‘Closure could mean our residents lose some of their independence and it could also result in residents requesting more home visits from GPs, which may have higher financial costs for the NHS.’

Closures 'unacceptable'

The housing trust said it would formally respond to the NHS England consultation, which closes 29 September. 

In its consultation document, NHS England said it was confident there was sufficient choice and availability in the area around Hartfields for patients to register with other practices. But local politicians said it was unrealistic to expect elderly patients to travel further. 

Councillors Paul Beck and Jean Robinson, who represent a ward served by Hartfields practice, said the proposed loss of services was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘another cost-cutting project’.

Dr David Anderson, organisational medical director at IntraHealth, said a meeting of patients at Hartfields last week unanimously backed retaining the practice.

All new GP contracting must be done under APMS contracts, which open services to certain types of commercial providers, in order to avoid discriminating under competition rules, NHS England has said.

A spokeswoman for NHS England in Durham, Darlington and Tees said: ‘The current local APMS contracts are high-value contracts which provide similar services to those contracted under a GMS/PMS contract. It’s not the APMS contract form that dictates what value for money is achieved, it’s how the contract form is used.

‘Once the outcome of the consultation is known, if we re-procure these services, this will still be under an APMS contract seeking to ensure value for money and equity with other contracts for primary medical care.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey has said many areas of the country had learnt through experience that ‘APMS contracts do not offer long-term benefits for patients or the public purse’.

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