THE future care of 11,400 residents has been thrown into doubt after a health group announced it would stop running five GP surgeries.
The Practice Group has announced its intention to terminate its contract for five surgeries in Brighton and Hove following a dispute over funding.
Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has urged healthcare bosses to think again and warned other city surgeries could not cope with additional patients if the surgeries did close.
Staff are said to be very worried by the development following around two weeks of rumours about the future of the surgeries.
NHS bosses have moved to reassure patients that their immediate care is not at risk and that this would not be a repeat of the Goodwood Court closure last June which left 10,000 patients without a doctor.
The Practice Group has given notice that they will be pulling out of their contract at the end of June with Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group expected to take over its running after that if an alternative provider is not found.
Surgeries affected are Brighton Homeless Healthcare in Morley Street, Whitehawk Medical Centre, Willow House Surgery in Bevendean, Hangleton Manor Surgery and one based in Boots in North Street.
Letters informing patients about the developments will be sent out next week.
The Argus understands the firm is pulling out after receiving a reduction in its central funding as part of a national review.
Ms Lucas said: “I’m deeply troubled by the threat of the closure of these five surgeries.
"Vulnerable people rely on these services and I simply don’t believe that other GP practices in the city have the capacity to take on these patients.
“Once again it looks like patients may end up paying the price for the privatisation of our health service.
"These surgeries are at risk because a profit-making company couldn’t balance the books, not because they’re not needed.”
Ms Lucas has written to NHS England demanding that they investigate other options to keep the surgeries open.
One resident with links to surgery staff told The Argus: “Absolutely, this is a worrying time for staff.
“There have been rumours for a while but staff didn’t receive official notification until Thursday.”
An NHS England spokeswoman said: “We are trying to work quickly to find alternative options to ensure ongoing care to accommodate patients especially
“Patients do not need to take any action at this moment, they will receive care as normal.”
WHAT HAPPENS NOW WITH THE PROPOSALS?
Are these NHS surgeries or a private company?
These are NHS GP surgeries provided by a private company.
Since the formation of the NHS, GPs have been able to be self-employed, own their own surgery and receive payment from the NHS to employ staff, pay for electricity and take home their own income too.
So what do patients do now?
The official advice is do nothing. Just under 11,500 patients use the five surgeries presently; Brighton Homeless Healthcare in Morley Street, Whitehawk Medical Centre in Whitehawk Road, Willow House Surgery in Bevendean, Hangleton Manor Surgery in Northease Drive and one based in Boots in North Street.
The current providers are set to end their running of the surgery at the end of June. It is hoped that will be enough time for NHS bosses to come up with alternative means of keeping the surgeries going and making sure it is staffed.
Is this the same as the Goodwood Court and Eaton Place surgeries that closed last year?
Not quite and fortunately NHS bosses have more time to respond to the current situation. Goodwood Court’s closure was rather more immediate, within a week of a Care Quality Commission inspection.
Will patients get a say on their future care?
NHS England is inviting patients to provide feedback to be considered in a final decision on their ongoing care by Friday, February 19. Patients can email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 01293 729298 or write to Primary Care Team, NHS England, 18 – 20 Massetts Road, York House, Horley, RH6 7DE.