Health watchdog tells NHS England it is concerned about Watton de-registering 1,500 patients

Watton Medical Practice.

Watton Medical Practice. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A Norfolk health watchdog has written to NHS England raising concerns over Watton surgery's approach to de-registering 1,500 patients.

Healthwatch Norfolk's chief executive Alex Stewart has asked for more information about the criteria applied when selecting the patients to be de-registered from the practice with two weeks notice.

The troubled Watton Medical Practice, in Gregor Shanks, Way has come under pressure after concerns were raised over its ability to meet the demand for appointments.

Its failure to recruit two new GPs to meet the needs of the 13,000 registered patients has seen the ratio of patients to doctors increase above what is deemed to be clinically safe by the NHS.

The surgery, with NHS England and the Local Medical Committee, wrote to patients who fall out of a new catchment area to tell them they must now re-register with another surgery.

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In his letter to Andrew Reid this month, the area director of East Anglia for NHS England, Mr Stewart said Healthwatch sympathises and understands the 'complexity of GP recruitment and the associated pressures that NHS England have in ensuring that it is commissioning a safe and secure environment in the delivery of primary care services'.

But he said the watchdog is worried about the lack of information and how patients are being selected for de-registration.

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The letter asks: 'What criteria have been established for de-registration? What explanations are being provided to those with long-term conditions? What provision has been made for patients who may be aphasic and for those who do not have English as a first language? What consideration has been given by the Local Area Team as to neighbouring practices capacity in the medium and long-term? And what assistance will they be provided with in relation to increased demand?'

A spokesperson for NHS England said it would not be releasing it response at this time. But the organisation said: 'This response addresses the concerns raised by Healthwatch and provides assurance that NHS England continues to work with partners at Watton Medical Practice, the Local Medical Committee, neighbouring practices and South Norfolk and West Norfolk clinical commissioning groups, to manage the implications and impact of de-registration. It should also be noted that NHS England East Anglia contacted Healthwatch Norfolk at an early stage in this process and has provided regular updates to ensure they have been kept aware of the position as it has progressed.'

NHS England added it has no plans for a second surgery in Watton and cannot provide a definitive list of areas affected by the de-registration.

But it did say anyone who has been de-registered will have been contacted by the end of June.

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