Folkestone GP practices plan to close doors to new patients amid safety fears
PUBLISHED: 13:59 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:15 12 September 2017
It comes just months after another surgery announced it is set to close in November
Some seven GP practices in Folkestone plan to close their doors to new patients in a bid to maintain safe services.
Central Surgery, Guildhall Street, Hawkinge & Elham, Manor Clinic, The New Surgery, Park Farm Sergery and Sandgate Road Surgery have all taken “unprecedented” action of applying to the local clinical commissioning group for a formal list closure.
The doctors say a national GP crisis has been acutely felt in the seaside town, with a shortage of some 16 full time equivalent GPs.
It comes after Folkestone East Family Practice, which serves nearly 5,000 patients announced earlier this year it was to close in November.
At the time, local Ukip councillors sensationally demanded a ban on all planning applications for housing developments until sufficient health services were available - a demand Shepway District Council swiftly dismissed.
Constituency MP Damian Collins said: “The existing GP practices in the town have made clear that they require extra resources, above and beyond the funding per patient they receive, if they are to take on the responsibility for the care of more people.
“The CCG has offered an initial increase of over 50 per cent for the funding per patient for GP practices in Folkestone, to help with this. There is an ongoing negotiation between the CCG and the GPs over whether this is enough.
“So far over 1,500 people have been successfully moved from the list of the Folkestone East practice to new surgeries, and all patients must be allocated a new GP, either at an existing practice, or through new doctors being brought in to work in the town.”
A spokesman for South Kent Coast CCG said: “If a GP practice feels it needs to close its patient list over a significant period, it must apply to us so we can consider the potential impact on patients and neighbouring practices and avoid displacing a problem elsewhere.
“We have received applications from seven practices in Folkestone to close their lists to new patients. These applications will be considered by the CCG and we will reply to the practices within 21 days.
“GP services everywhere are under real pressure and this is being felt particularly in Folkestone following the decision of Folkestone East Family Practice to withdraw from its contact from November 1.
“The CCG has a duty to ensure all patients affected by the closure – up to 4,500 people - are able to continue to access local GP services after November 1.
“Some patients will be able to register with one of the four practices that are currently accepting new patients, providing they live in the catchment area.
“The remainder will be allocated to other existing local practices and we are writing to all patients this week to explain this process in detail.
“To support practices to take on new patients, the CCG will pay practices an additional £42.68 per patient to support any additional costs for the first year.
“This compares favourably with other patient distribution investments to recognise the specific issues in Folkestone.
“The CCG is also investing £1.2million (£20 per patient) this year in new services in the town to improve care for local people and reduce the pressure on GP services.”
Steve Inett of the independent Healthwatch Kent added: “We have raised our concerns with South Kent Coastal Clinical Commissioning Group and are waiting for a more detailed response to see what the impact on patients may be.
“As the independent voice for patients in Kent, we have heard about peoples’ experience of Folkestone GP practices.
“We share all the feedback we receive directly with the Care Quality Commission and South Kent Coastal Commissioning Group in order to improve services.
“We would encourage anybody who has tried to get a GP appointment to share their experience with us. We will anonymise your experience and use it to help improve the service.”
Last month it emerged that Kent was set to benefit from an influx of dozens more GPs from overseas, however the British Medical Association warned the plans “do not go far enough”.