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Rescue bid too little,


COVER STORY THIS MONTH


NHS bosses have fi nally woken up to the growing closure crisis, but are they doing enough, asks Alex Matthews-King


Two years ago, bosses at NHS England were completely unconcerned about possible practice closures. They told Pulse closures happen ‘all the time’ and were nothing to be worried about. They are not so relaxed any more. Managers have been spurred into action after a spate of large closures around the country has destabilised neighbouring practices and thrown the plight of many into sharp relief. LMC leaders have been warning for years that practices have reached a tipping point, but a Pulse investigation reveals surgery closures have hit a three-year high, with more than 200,000 patients displaced last year. And many others are nearing the brink. After a year and a half of Pulse


lobbying for decisive action, through its Stop Practice Closures campaign, NHS England has finally launched an initiative to support struggling practices.


But the £10m scheme is just a small one-year pilot targeting around 600 of the most vulnerable practices, and GP leaders are warning that it is much too little, too late to reverse the damage being done to general practice. The pilot aims to parachute rescue teams into at-risk surgeries, offering specialist help with staff, finances and IT. Area teams have been told to come up with lists of practices in trouble, which were due to be submitted by the end of last month. Pulse has learned that in the


16 February 2016 Pulse


South-West of England, the area team has identified 17 vulnerable practices covering around 100,000 patients.


If this is replicated across the country then around 620 practices could be in line for extra NHS support worth approximately £16,000 each (enough for a month’s worth of locum cover). In the devolved nations too, health ministers are realising the extent of the problems in general practice.





too late for struggling practices


Pumping a bit of money into a vulnerable practice won’t have a long- term effect Dr Peter Graves


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