“Healthwatch Brighton and Hove has been concerned to learn about another GP Practice closure in the City. The closures of GP practices and practices being placed in special measures by Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) have impacted on around 10% of the population of Brighton and Hove in the last two year. Disruption to this extent will have caused inconvenience and difficulties for local people and we have heard from local people about difficulties and delays in securing GP appointments. One of our concerns is the general capacity of the NHS locally to absorb any more closures and disruption particularly with the colder winter weather, Royal Sussex County Hospital on ‘Black Alert’, and increasing demand on all parts of the health and care system.
NHS England has indicated there is capacity in the system to enable people affected by this recent closure to register with a new GP. Fewer GP practices and limited treatment alternatives will reduce the chance of this being achieved. Already some patients will have moved GP practice twice in a short time. Ensuring registration with a new GP practice is the bare minimum patients might expect. People should be able to expect a high standard from the NHS. GP services should be reliable and convenient and allow families to have treatment close to home. Patients are also entitled to expect services that meet CQC objective standards. Future sustainability plans for the NHS rely on more diagnosis and treatment being provided by GPs but we have a system that struggles to meet current demand and seems ill equipped to meet increasing demand in the future.
The most recent GP Practice closure involves a relatively small number of people but Healthwatch wonders how close we are to a tipping point where the system will not be able to cope.
Healthwatch Brighton and Hove has worked closely with the NHS locally to ensure that those people affected can get advice on any immediate problems they have accessing GP services and are advised how to re-register with another practice. We recognise that NHS England and Brighton & Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (B&G CCG) has acted promptly to address the problem and have made every effort to minimise disruption for patients. We are keen to provide evidence to the NHS about people’s individual experiences of this and other GP closures and we encourage people to contact us and share their experiences using our online patient feedback centre www.brightonpulse.org. Additional information for patients is available on the Healthwatch website www.healthwatchbrightonandhove.co.uk
Working in close co-operation with Healthwatch and local community groups the NHS have responded well to this latest GP closure but overall system resilience and the capacity to cope in the future must be a serious concern for planners and decision makers both in the NHS and for Brighton and Hove City Council’s social care services.”