GP patients in deprived Bristol communities losing out

PACGPs Jan 2016The Chief Executive of the NHS sought to defend a reduction in funding to some of south Bristol’s GP surgeries, after MP Karin Smyth used a Parliamentary Committee hearing to highlight how widely-recognised measures of deprivation are not used to influence funding to local surgeries.

The Labour MP, whose Bristol South constituency includes wards with some of the greatest levels of deprivation in the country, is concerned that cuts to funding will have a negative impact on patients of a number of local GP surgeries and that uncertainty about funding will lead to worse services. The cuts come as a result of the Personal Medical Services (PMS) Review, recently undertaken by NHS England.

Watch the exchanges (scroll down for video)

Speaking as the Commons Public Accounts Committee held a hearing on Access to General Practice in England (11 January), Karin Smyth said:

“In south Bristol there are lots of very deprived wards, with some of the greatest problems with life expectancy in the country; high incidence of coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, COPD, asthma and so on. But the funding formula which has recently been changed under the PMS review doesn’t take account of deprivation and so money has been taken out of some of our practices.”

Whilst Mr Stevens acknowledged the “very important questions” asked by the Labour MP he defended the move, saying the PMS review was seeking to achieve a “fairer” allocation of resources and pointed out further changes to funding allocations that loom in years to come.

Karin Smyth welcomed some of the new initiatives and funding but she reiterated the impact on GP practices in her constituency in the meantime, pointing out how the changes have caused great uncertainty.

“One practice has closed already, patient lists have been closed in two more. I am concerned about managing that risk in particular in areas of deprivation in the meantime between now and future funding changes,” she said.

Speaking of the PMS review changes she added: “While others elsewhere may gain from this redistribution, it is not right to rob Peter to pay Paul.

“Bedminster residents have recently faced difficulties as the Malago Surgery and the Bedminster Family Practice had to divert patients to other areas having closed its list. This follows similar experiences of Knowle’s St Martin’s Surgery in 2014, when patients received a letter out of the blue warning them that local GPs would no longer be able to keep the practice open. A remedy was found for St Martin’s, with a well-established local family practice now running the surgery.”

The PMS review removes some £2 million from funding allocated to south Bristol over a five-year period from April 2016, redistributing it to GP practices in other parts of the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group area.

Figures released last autumn by the Department for Communities and Local Government showed the greatest levels of deprivation in the city are in areas including Whitchurch Park, Hartcliffe and Filwood.

Watch the exchanges: