Patients at Sudbury GP surgery voice fears at ‘super-practice’ takeover

Photo by Adam Tiernan Thomas

Photo by Adam Tiernan Thomas - Credit: Archant

A patients group in Sudbury have slammed NHS chiefs following proposed changes which could see their community-run GP practice lose its doctors.

Under the plans for Sudbury Primary Care Centre in Watford Road, it could be turned into a ‘super-practice’ under the control of a large private healthcare provider.

Patients and staff claim they have been shut out of a bidding process to decide who will take over their practice once the current GP services contract ends in October 2016.

In a letter to NHS England, Paul Lorber, a patient and former Lib Dem councillor who wants to see the practice remain in the hands of its current provider Integrated Health CIC, wrote: “I was invited and attended what I considered to be a consultation exercise organised by NHS England. Local patients raised many issues of concern about the decision to put our GP practice to tender.”

He added that Sudbury Vale is also being ‘marketed’ as part of a batch of around 14 practices with high patient numbers in the capital, making the high level of NHS funding they draw “especially attractive to very large providers to the disadvantage of smaller practices.”

It is believed the popular surgery, which has seen patient numbers swell from 5,000 to 8,600 since it was opened as a community-run social enterprise in 2013, could be taken over by groups including Virgin Care Services and Care UK which may choose not to retain the practice’s well-respected team of four doctors and a locum.

The surgery is run on an Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) contract, which means that the NHS can put it out to a competitive process where a variety of providers can compete to run the surgery.

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Integrated Health CIC said they were not given sufficient notice or support by NHS England to submit a bid to extend their contract.

A letter to patients from NHS England informing them of a consultation on the tender process said care services would continue ‘uninterrupted’ during the negotiations.

At a protest outside the surgery on today, patients displayed banners with the slogan “hands off our doctors” and railed against planned visits by NHS bosses and potential healthcare providers looking to put in a bid on Thursday.

Gaynor Lloyd, from the Sudbury Vale patient participation group said: “I want the doctors who have served us faithfully over a decade to run the surgery for the next five to ten years.

“Why should these big providers care, though? I am so angry I can hardly speak and patients and the public have no idea what is going on.”

Many patients at the surgery have threatened to leave if the new contract brings any changes to staff.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “We are legally obliged to open up the tendering process to all qualified providers. The current provider of services at Sudbury Vale Surgery has not put itself forward as part of the tendering process and unfortunately no further submissions can be accepted at this stage.

“NHS England has undertaken extensive engagement activities with patients including writing to them directly, conducting surveys and holding a public event. We want to reassure patients that we will appoint the most suitable provider capable of delivering excellent, long-term and sustainable GP services to the local population.”