Eight practices which were at the end of their time-limited contracts were put under consultation by the local NHS England area team this summer. Five faced closure and two faced mergers, while another practice was recommended for reprocurement.
Following public consultation, six of the threatened practices have had their contracts extended temporarily for around a year.
One practice, Intrahealth’s Hartfields Medical Practice, based at a retirement village, will be reprocured on a new long-term contract.
In statements NHS England’s Durham, Darlington and Tees area team said the contract extensions would allow wider reviews of services working with CCGs and local authorities to reach long-term decisions on the practices.
From April 2015 CCGs will be able to take on primary care commissioning powers.
An NHS England spokeswoman said: ‘As always, we will put patient care at the centre of all we do and continue to ensure patients have access to GP services.’
The area team admitted in its consultation that the APMS contracts were often ‘less value for money’ than GMS or PMS.
Deprived areas threatened
But shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told GP he was worried that APMS health centres commissioned under the last Labour government in under doctored and deprived areas faced funding cuts as they come up for review because NHS England had forgotten why they needed more money.
Commissioners, he said, were ‘almost forgetting the lessons of the past, which were that general practice wasn’t getting to some parts of the country’.
‘It is saying, why does this one cost more than that one,’ he said. ‘But actually there were good reasons.’
Campaigners in Middlesbrough welcomed the one-year extension for Hemlington Medical Centre. Local MP Tom Blenkinsop (Lab, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) said: ‘While it is good news that the medical centre will remain open for at least the medium term we obviously can’t rest on our laurels. What will happen after a year? We could find ourselves back in the position of having to fight for its future so by no means is the campaign over. I, along with my Labour colleagues, will continue to fight for our NHS.’