I am very concerned about the closure of North Harbour Medical Practice. Just a month before the announcement a merger with another practice was being considered. I had raised concerns with the Integrated Care Board (ICB) about the lack of contingency planning over winter if something happened to the building. There was no mention of the practice closing. Healthwatch were also not notified that the decision to close was under consideration. The original plan had been for the surgery to move somewhere near the High Street while a refurbishment took place, and there are already advanced plans for a new building in the Cosham area that would have replaced the existing building. The ‘migration’ of 10,000 patients into a system operating at capacity in just a few months is also unrealistic, in my view.
After raising my concerns I met with the ICB to discuss this on 21st December. I also invited local Councillors and Healthwatch to that meeting. The Portsmouth Primary care Alliance were also present.
The ICB’s plan is to move patients to other practices in the area. Most of the patient list would be taken on by Drayton Surgery and by the Portsdown Group. Other surgeries would also take on small numbers of patients. The plan to build a new facility is still live but is not expected until 2024.
Both myself, as constituency MP, and Healthwatch remain concerned about the viability of the current ICB plan to migrate patients to a new practice and we hold concerns regarding the quality and continuity of care. We have raised specific concerns and made several requests, including:
- The slowness of NHS England to make decisions regarding capital refurbishments and the new build proposed to replace North Harbour Surgery. I have said that it must be recognised that there needs to be a fast track through this to set up a new facility.
- Alternative options; as well as moving patients to new surgeries be examined. This included:
- Standing up some GP provision at the QA as a redirect service currently exists, but this may need to be developed, or at the Urgent Treatment Centre.
- Looking at alternative sites in Cosham, including City Council-owned properties, or sites such as the new fire station, temporary buildings, rooms owned by Cosham Baptist Church and mobile provision.
- Regarding staffing, like-for-like recruitment was never going to be sufficient. The change of provider for so many patients at once would mean a massive increase in workload for the receiving practices. People would be wanting introductory meetings with their new health team/it may take longer in appointments to get to the full facts etc. Just replacing existing numbers of GPs or specialist (and/or) community nurses would not be enough. It was felt the ICB needed to be realistic about the additional support needed to make this transition.
- More was needed to help patients understand which part of the health team they needed to see. Current NHS messaging was not helping that. It must be improved.
- All GP surgeries were facing large amounts of bureaucracy to access funding there to help them through a tough winter. I have asked for this bureaucracy to be relaxed to enable practices to get on with recruiting healthcare professionals.
There was also a discussion around longer-term things that could be done to help recruit and retain Doctors and other healthcare professionals in Portsmouth.
We agreed that we should:
- Ensure any patient who moves to a new practice, that the moves are seamless and stress-free for the patient, which would include an increase in healthcare professionals for the north of Portsmouth
- Stand up some immediate Cosham-based provision as an interim measure.
- Expedite a new Cosham surgery coming online.
Our next steps will be a further meeting in early January 2023. It was agreed that the ICB would not issue further patient letters prior to that meeting taking place. This would be in order to give everyone comprehensive information about all that was being done, including any progress in retaining a site in Cosham.
The ICB will give Penny and Healthwatch information on:
- Exact GP/healthcare professionals: patient ratios and an assessment of the increase of staffing needed to do this transition to a new provider and to do it well.
- Any other GP partnerships that may soon be in difficulty.
- How Solent Trust will manage the community services it currently runs out of North Harbour Practice, podiatry services etc, as an example.
Further commitments include:
- I would brief the Secretary of State and ask for his assistance in getting NHS England to move faster on capital funding.
- The ICB would explore more interim options to retain a facility in Cosham and report back.
I recognise there would also be other questions from the public regarding the migration to another practice and how their prescriptions would work during and after the move and I have asked such FQAs are prepared by the ICB now. I intend to inform people on my website or mail them directly if they get in touch.
Finally, I stressed that commissioners must recognise that Portsmouth, as a major city, has a huge volume of often above-average needs. It needs to focus on recruitment, continuity of care and providing an estate that is suitable.
I have raised these concerns with the Secretary of State for Health who is following up with the ICB and I will continue to monitor this. I keep everyone updated via this site and social media and if you wish to be emailed or be written to directly please register below.