GP cuts hit poor worst

November 28 2015

PATIENTS in South Bristol face losing up to around £2 million in the next five years under plans to reduce funding to GP surgeries in the area.

PATIENTS in South Bristol face losing up to around £2 million in the next five years under plans to reduce funding to GP surgeries in the area.

Doctors at six family practices in South Bristol say the move will lead – at a minimum – to cuts to services for patients and longer waits for appointments.

At a time when several practices in Bristol have struggled to recruit GPs, it adds to the sense of near-crisis affecting the NHS.

MP Karin Smyth has joined others in objecting to the plans, which will see extra funding removed from surgeries in deprived communities.

She says the plans should be reconsidered.

Dr Trevor Dean, a spokesman for GPs at six surgeries in St John’s Lane, Knowle, Bishopsworth and Hartcliffe, warned that the redistribution of funds “threatens to hit hardest those with the highest health needs.”

The practices worst hit are Crest, in St John’s Lane and Knowle West; Grange Road, in Bishopsworth; Merrywood, in Knowle West; Hillview, in Hartcliffe; and Hartwood, in Hartcliffe. The five are supported by the Lennard surgery in Bishopsworth, which is not so badly affected by the changes.

Dr Dean said: “Our practices provide primary care to the most deprived communities in Bristol and the South West.

“It is well known that deprivation is the biggest factor affecting people’s health and creates the need for extra healthcare. In the past we have received extra funding which has been used to employ additional doctors, nurses and other staff to meet this need.

“This funding is now being dramatically cut.”

Karin Smyth, Labour MP for Bristol South, said a review by NHS England had decided that measures of deprivation should no longer be used to set funding for GPs.

She believes South Bristol surgeries will lose £2m in funding over five years from April 2016. 

A decision about where and how to redistribute the £2m was due to be announced by the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as the Voice went to press. However, the Voice understands that the CCG is backing the reduced funding for deprived areas. Ms Smyth said: “Six surgeries in some of the most deprived areas of south Bristol are worried about the impact on patients if they lose money on this scale.

 “Money that has in the past been allocated on the basis of deprivation will be removed under these plans.

“Local, accessible GP surgeries that deliver high quality health care form a key part of any community, but patients living in some of our city’s poorest areas would find it harder than ever to register with a GP or to get an appointment to see one.

 “While others elsewhere may gain from this redistribution, it is not right to rob Peter to pay Paul.”

 She said there was still time for the CCG to “act wisely” by ordering that the £2m can be ‘redistributed’ straight back to these areas that would otherwise lose out.  

Ms Smyth has been lobbying NHS England and the Bristol CCG on the issue.