Funding cuts to six GP practices prompt fears over impact on services

Gayton Road Health Centre in King's Lynn is one of the surgeries that will be affected by the shortf

Gayton Road Health Centre in King's Lynn is one of the surgeries that will be affected by the shortfall in funding. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Diabetes clinics and drug-misuse programmes are among services which could be axed due to a shortfall in funding for a group of GP surgeries, doctors today warn.

Vida Healthcare, which comprises six practices in West Norfolk and cares for more than 37,000 patients, stands to lose funding worth about £550,000 over the next four years.

It comes after NHS England carried out a review of its commissioning of primary care, but patients have reacted with alarm and said the cuts would be a 'devastating blow'.

Senior health bosses insisted the funding released from the practices would be 'reinvested into GP services' in the area.

The surgeries that make up Vida are Carol Brown (Dersingham), Gayton Road (King's Lynn), Fairstead (King's Lynn), St Augustines (King's Lynn), Hunstanton surgery, and The Hollies (Downham Market), which will be indirectly affected by the shortfall.

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The practices originally clubbed together in a bid to reduce back-office costs and provide services more efficiently.

Dr Gareth Allen, the GP who started Vida and has about 30 years' experience in the medical profession, warned the funding cut would mean a reduction in services and less doctor-time for patients.

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He said: 'It's very sad.

'The workload is going up all the time but to maintain our income we will have to reduce services.

'It also might mean that instead of waiting three weeks to see your GP, you will be lucky if you only wait four weeks.'

The surgeries' patient participation groups have joined forces to write about their concerns to this newspaper, which is published in our Letters section.

In its letter the PPG said: 'This will have a devastating impact on a service that is already under huge pressure – pressure that will grow over the next four years because of demographic changes, including a rapidly increasing local population.

'The services offered by Vida are absolutely crucial to the well-being of our local communities.

'It is our firm belief that these services must be strengthened in the short and medium term to cope with increased demand – not weakened and undermined by cuts in vital resources.'

Dan O'Connor, 73, a diabetes patient at The Hollies, said: 'Vida's growth over the years has not just enabled the continuation of practices that would otherwise struggle to continue, but brought cost-savings and greater flexibility in the delivery of services to patients.

'This is a strategy that the government actively supported and encouraged. To see Vida's success in implementing this strategy actually being rewarded with cuts in funding is absolutely crazy.'

A spokesman for West Norfolk Clinical Commisioning Group said: 'Working in partnership, we, NHS England, and the Norfolk and Waveney Local Medical Committee have met with Vida Healthcare to discuss the PMS review, a national process all PMS practices have had to undertake, with discussions focused on the continued delivery of high quality patient-centred services.

'As per national guidance, the funding released from the PMS review process will be reinvested locally to support all GP practices within the CCG area.'

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