Knowle GP surgery to close leaving patients weeks to find another doctor

November 28 2016

THOUSANDS of patients at a Knowle GP surgery have been told their practice is to close – and they have been given just a few weeks to find a new one.

Map of GP surgeriesNHS England wrote on Friday to 5,000 patients at the St Martin’s practice in Wells Road, telling them that the owner, the Crest Family Practice based in Knowle West, is pulling out and will no longer provide a service to St Martin’s patients.  

The Voice has been aware of the situation for some weeks but agreed not to publicise the event before patients were informed.

Crest has made its intention to pull out known to NHS England for some time but there were repeated delays while the NHS struggled to organise a mailing to patients and arrange a meeting where they can discuss the options open to them.

All 5,000 St Martin’s patients are expected to be accommodated by neighbouring surgeries – a map is below. 

The St Martin’s practice will close on January 7.

An event to inform patients of their options has been called for Thursday December 1 at The Park Centre, Daventry Road, Knowle. There will be two sessions, from 2.30-4pm and from 5-6.30pm.

The Voice asked NHS England why it had taken so long to make the closure decision public. The January closure appears to have been on the cards for some weeks if not longer. the delays in announcing the decision appear to have deprived patients of time in which to find another GP.  We also suggested that patients were due an apology.

NHS England did not answer these questions. Instead it issued a statement in whichLaila Pennington, head of primary care for NHS England in the South West, said: “We have written to patients to explain the decision and we will be working closely with Crest Family Practice to support patients registering at other practices, with particular emphasis on identifying vulnerable people who might need special help – perhaps because they have dementia or are on continuous medication.

“We would advise patients register with another practice by Christmas to ensure continuity of their care and we are confident that there are good alternatives locally, with most patients having at least five surgeries within a two-mile radius.”

Coincidentally, the Priory surgery, a few hundred yards from St Martin’s in Wells Road, has this year been extended, and has capacity to take on at least one more GP, the Voice understands.

St Martin’s was previously under threat of closure in 2014 when it made national headlines after two doctors, Holly Hardy and Karen Houghton, resigned their NHS contract saying the workload was unbearable.

It has since had two owners, neither of whom has been able to sustain it.

The Voice has heard reports from patients of a clear lack of resources at the surgery. One patient reported that after she had waited two hours, a doctor told patients in the waiting room that they should go home unless their need was urgent.

It is hard to recruit GPs in South Bristol. Many doctors resent NHS reforms of recent years. Those who run their own surgeries in private premises which they have to maintain – such as St Martin’s – say it is hard to make a profit.

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth called the situation “deeply regrettable”.

“We have of course been here before quite recently and it is deeply regrettable that, once again, St Martins’ patients find themselves facing uncertainties about what they will see as one of the most fundamental healthcare rights: access to a local, trusted GP practice,” she said.

 “I know that many patients, those with long term conditions, for example, will be very worried about the situation. And there will also be concerns about capacity if patients registering elsewhere simply heaps more pressure on other local surgeries.

 “What is important now is that patients who have been served by St Martin’s surgery have continuing GP care. From talking with local people it is clear there are strong opinions about what should happen next and patients will expect NHS England to have taken into account local views and patients’ best interests when reaching a decision on the next steps.

 “I know many patients will not find it easy, for example, to get along to the drop-in sessions organised by NHS England to raise their concerns and to ask questions, so it is vital that local people have other opportunities to be informed and updated.

 “I will be discussing all these issues with local NHS managers, and so I continue to welcome comments from St Martin’s surgery patients.”