AT A time where patient lists are getting longer and the number of GPs is getting smaller, practices are being encouraged to merge.
Each day this week The News has been focusing on a looming GP crisis.
In our final report today we look at how practices are being encouraged to merge.
Campbell Road Surgery in Southsea is merging with the Milton Park Practice in Goldsmith Avenue in Milton.
Christine Donohoe is practice manager for both sites. She said: ‘Both have been working together since April this year.
‘In Campbell Road there were two GPs working until the end of March when one retired.
‘You cannot have a single-handed practice and so it looked to merge with Milton Park.
‘There are three GPs in Milton Park who are able to support Campbell Road.
‘Small practices are going to find it harder to survive and will struggle in terms of running the business.
‘But by consolidating and becoming bigger there is more security.
‘It will also mean a patient will be able to see a GP more quickly.
‘It’s only by merging that Campbell Road has stayed.’
The two practices are due to officially merge in July, once system changes have gone through.
And Milton Park is waiting to hear from NHS Property Services to see if it can move into a new building, which is on the site of St Mary’s Community Health Campus.
Campbell Road Surgery would remain in Southsea as a branch of Milton Park.
Mrs Donohoe added: ‘The Milton Park site isn’t fit for purpose as we are short on space.
‘The stairs inside are steep and unsafe for elderly patients.
‘This means we have to shuffle nurses and doctors around – taking up time.
‘There’s also difficulty for patients to park and sometimes even get through the door.
‘As we rent the building there isn’t much we can do about this.’
Once finalised, Cotswold House will have a lift built inside, and corridors will be wider, so patients can get around the building better.
It would also mean the practice would move 1,000 yards to be in its new location.
‘It’s still in the Milton area, but it is further on the edge,’ added Mrs Donohoe.
‘But there is a bus service that runs to the site and parking available.
‘By moving, patients would get a better service.’
Merging practices is something being encouraged by local Clinical Commissioning Groups.
Dr Jim Hogan, who leads the Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘Incoming doctors want to be part of a bigger set up.
‘Milton Park is a small set-up and so is Campbell Road, but bringing them both together makes them a more viable enterprise going forward.
‘It’s inevitable smaller practices will struggle as only having one GP in a practice isn’t sustainable.’
By merging, practices can choose to keep individual sites open or relocate to a single one.
It means the patient list is bigger, so more money comes into the practice, there are fewer running costs and overheads to pay and a bigger pool of doctors to see patients.
Dr Hogan said other practices that could merge are Salisbury Road Surgery with The Waverley Road Surgery; and Cosham Health Centre, with the Northern Road Surgery, in Northern Road, Cosham.
Could offering a bonus help attract doctors to work here?
A LEADING doctor in Portsmouth said he would not be keen to see practices offer bonuses to doctors as a recruitment incentive.
As well as south east Hampshire, other areas of the country are bracing themselves for a shortfall of GPs.
As reported, more doctors are retiring early due to workload, fewer trainees are taking up positions in practices, more GPs have become attracted to locum work and patient lists are getting bigger.
In a desperate bid to hire a GP, the Thorne Moor Medical Practice, in Doncaster, has offered a £20,000 bonus – known as a ‘golden hello’.
The practice said it had been advertising a post for a year and needed to do something extra to help fill the gap.
Elsewhere a housing developer in Carlisle has offered GPs a discount on homebuying in a bid to attract them to the areas in which it is building.
Dr Jim Hogan, lead of the Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘As each practice runs as a business, it’s up to those who run it if they choose to give an incentive.
‘I am not aware of this practice being put in place in the Portsmouth area, but that’s not to say it may not happen.
‘The money for the bonus would come from the practice’s income, so it would be for them to set the money aside.
‘If we can recruit without using a “golden hello” incentive then it’s better.
‘But then it’s up to that individual practice or group of what it can provide.’
Doctors from the area have been speaking to NHS England, which is where the main source of GP funding comes from.
A spokesman for the NHS England Wessex Area team, which covers south east Hampshire, said: ‘All organisations concerned with general practice are working together to improve the overall recruitment and retention levels of qualified doctors entering general practice as a speciality.
‘We are working with Health Education England and other partners including the national professional bodies to determine how we can best support these workforce improvements.’