A leaked document indicates that struggling GP surgeries in England will be allowed to fail and close, under new plans floated by healthcare bosses.
The letter indicates that it is both financially and logistically impossible for NHS England to continue supporting such failing practices.
But the British Medical Association has already responded to the plan, suggesting that it is unacceptable to inconvenience NHS patients in this way.
A recent inspection of healthcare organisations by the Care Quality Commission revealed that very few GP surgeries proportionately are currently providing an adequate level of care.
This calls into question the level of potential closures that could ultimately be initiated.
Yet he government has reportedly failed to allocate a considerable potion of a special fund which was set up in June 2015 to assist struggling GP practices.
NHS England has not denied this report.
But a spokesperson suggested that it is currently attempting to ensure that the funding is available by the end of October.
Approximately 10% of surgeries are currently considered vulnerable by NHS England.
And while the healthcare authorities have taken a moderate stance in public on the issue of closures, correspondence would suggest otherwise.
A letter sent by Paul Twomey, medical director of the NHS England North Yorkshire and Humber area team, to local GPs and health officials outlines a much more stringent approach to closures.
“The message we need to communicate to general practice is the GP Practice Forward View must be about transformation and in that sense is not like a pilot. Local health leaders will understand that “vulnerable practices must either transform and deliver a quality service or be allowed to fail and wither by the system. We are no longer in a position to continue supporting practices irrespective of their willingness or ability as a provider to transform appropriately.”
Dr Richard Vautrey from the British Medical Association’s GP committee criticised this notion, and suggested that the government must deliver funding to vulnerable surgeries rapidly, in order to “deter a mindset amongst managers that some GP practices can be allowed to disappear”.
An NHS England spokesperson responded to the issue by outlining the plans of the department.
“Rising patient demand is placing GPs under more pressure and that is why we are reversing the historic under-investment in general practice through a wide-ranging action plan, backed with half a billion pounds to support struggling practices. This includes a four-year, £40m programme for helping the GP surgeries facing the most difficulties and further practical measures to stabilise general practice for the future”.
Just last month, over 2,000 patients were were left without a GP after a surgery was closed in Nottingham following an “inadequate” regulatory rating.
It seems increasingly likely that this could become a common occurrence in the existing NHS climate.