Struggling GP practices stabilised by three-month ban on patient movement

A three-month ban on patients moving between practices in a Hampshire town has helped relieve pressure on struggling GP practices following 'major problems with recruitment and retention'.

Patient registration (Photo: Nicolas McComber/Getty Images)
Patient registration (Photo: Nicolas McComber/Getty Images)

All eight GP practices in the town of Gosport temporarily suspended their patient lists in the three months to 31 March to help ‘stabilise’ primary care services. The move came after a merger between four of the practices saw thousands of patients switch surgeries - piling pressure on others that were already stretched.

Fareham and Gosport CCG has since confirmed to GPonline that the temporary suspension - which the CCG and GP practices decided collectively to impose - has now been lifted, and that the measures were successful in ‘giving practices some breathing space to catch up on their new registrations’.

List closure

The decision to stop patients ‘moving from one practice to another’ was made after four practices in the area merged in a bid to avoid closure. Although the practices were able to stay open, staff shortages meant that patients registered with the newly-formed Willow Group began to have issues with access - resulting in the mass movement of patients.

A statement released by Fareham and Gosport CCG in December 2018 read: ‘A temporary suspension is being introduced for patients moving from one practice to another in Gosport to help GP practices stabilise after more than 2,100 patients in the town have transferred between practices which has affected a few of the practices with higher numbers of new registrations than usual.

‘Two of the eight Gosport practices have already had to temporarily close their lists because they are struggling to cope with the increase in numbers, which also has a further knock-on effect on the practices near to them.’

Workforce crisis

According to the CCG, practices had raised concerns that their services could become unsafe if they continued to take on more patients at a time when the town was already facing ‘major problems of GP recruitment and retention’.

The ban applied only to patients who were already living in Gosport and already registered with a GP practice.

Speaking at the time, CCG spokesperson Dr Andrew Holden said: ‘We are not taking the decision lightly to support temporarily suspending a patient’s ability to move to another GP practice. But the current situation poses considerable risks.

‘This temporary suspension will give the practices some time, in a planned and co-ordinated way, to catch up with the influx of patient registrations received to date.’

He added: ‘All Gosport practices are working closely together for the good of their patients, and trying to offer the best services they can, and ensuring that patients can see an appropriate health professional when they need to.’

Primary care networks

Wessex LMC chief executive Dr Nigel Watson described the temporary suspension as ‘pragmatic’ and praised Gosport practices for ‘working hard to deliver a good service’ in the face of a recruitment crisis.

Although the CCG says it is too early to tell whether or not the issues facing practices three months ago had been fully resolved following the re-opening of practice lists in Gosport, a spokesperson said that the creation of primary care networks and the promotion of collaborative working could go a long way in tackling such problems.

He said: ‘A main objective of PCNs is to help practices deliver improved patient services by building stronger primary healthcare teams, better able to respond to the needs of their local populations and tackle the serious workforce recruitment and retention issues that some are experiencing. PCNs should therefore help to give general practice greater resilience and long-term sustainability.’

An NHS England South East spokesperson said: ‘Within NHS England, we will continue to work with CCG colleagues and the Wessex LMC to support practices to continue providing safe primary medical care to the population of Gosport.’

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