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Suffolk: Why might your doctors’ practice be forced to close?

07:30 12 July 2014

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A Suffolk health professional claims government funding proposals will force general practices to close or cut services.

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Sharon Meers, who is the business manager at Saxmundham Health, has expressed “deep concerns” about NHS England’s review of personal medical service (PMS) contracts - which she says will cut 20% from the budgets of most practices in the county.

Faced with such significant cuts, Mrs Meers claims practices will be forced to axe services such as minor injury, blood testing and wound care, that are currently only affordable because of the premium offered through the PMS contract. This, she says, will force patients to travel further for treatment, hitting rural areas hardest.

“I can see it making a real mess of the NHS and there’s already great concern out there that the fallout is going to be very major,” she said. “I am really worried for the patients because before you know it it’s already in place and there’s no way of unravelling it.”

Under the review, the “premium funding” that practices operating under a PMS contract receive to provide extra services, will be reduced from a national budget of £325million to around £235m.

NHS England’s East Anglia area team said it was committed to ensuring the national contract changes “do not destabilise local practices”.

Katie Norton, the team’s director of commissioning, also confirmed there were “no plans to reduce the total level of funding associated with practices who have PMS contract in Suffolk”.

Mrs Meers, however, claims practices on PMS contracts - which make up around 75% of those in Suffolk - will be reverted back to general medical services contracts, which do not receive a patient premium.

While she acknowledges there will be some funding available to practices that carry out additional services, she says the amount offered will not even cover basic costs of employing clinicians.

“This will mean very difficult decisions have to be made,” she said. “Practices will be looking at a significant reduction in income and won’t be able to provide the sorts of services they provide at the moment.

“Recruitment will also be an issue so practices won’t have the same clinical capacity, patients will have to wait longer to be seen and ultimately I think we will see some practices closing because of the amounts of money we are talking about.

“The big fear I have is that patients will have to travel further to get services. I think that the prime people to suffer will be those living in rural areas.”

Both NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups confirmed they were aware of the proposals and are working with the Suffolk Local Medical Committee, which represents GP practices, and NHS England, “to ensure continued good quality primary care for patients”.

Ms Norton added: “Our priority is to ensure that all practices receive fair funding to enable them to continue to provide local services to meet local needs.”

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