Fears new GP contract will worsen patient care in deprived part of Weston

Bournville's For All Healthy Living Centre.

Bournville's For All Healthy Living Centre. - Credit: Archant

GP services in one of Weston-super-Mare’s most deprived areas could be run for less money in future even though there are fears it will ‘inevitably be a lesser service’.

The For All Healthy Living Centre on the Bournville estate, one of the most deprived areas in the country, has been running GP services on the same contract for 10 years.

However, the deal with the Healthy Living Company will end in October, and NHS bosses have invited bids from providers.

An internal independent report commissioned by the clinical commissioning group responsible for North Somerset’s health services said: “It’s possible another provider will be able to offer to deliver a more streamlined and cost-effective general practice service.

“However, it will inevitably be a lesser service and some of the integration with other services which currently exists may suffer as a result and possibly lead to unquantified knock-on costs both financially and socially.”

A CCG spokesman said these view does not illustrate the whole picture, but refused, when asked by the Mercury, to send the full report.

Cllr Ian Parker, who has been campaigning to improve health inequalities on the estate, said: “The monetary value in the contract is fully 50 per cent less than what’s being received at the moment. To me that suggests lessening of services.

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“There are multiple health problems affecting people attending the surgery, and they need all the help they can get and not a reduced service.

“That’s why the Healthy Living Company is not bidding for the contract.

“It can run it, but not to the same standard they are currently.

“If the Healthy Living Company cannot make it work, I cannot see how another provider can.”

The bidding process began in July, and NHS England and the CCG are evaluating responses and carrying out a patient survey.

Lisa Manson, director of commissioning at the CCG, said: “Strict procurement rules mean we cannot comment about financial matters.

“The current provider of this contract is For All Healthy Living Company and its contract is time-limited.

“The new contract will be in line with NHS GP contracts across the country and requires the provider to deliver the best quality care for patients.”

Q&A with NHS England and the CCG about the new contract

Q: When do potential providers need to apply by, and when will the provider be chosen?

A: The invitation to tender was issued on July 12; we have received bids and are in the process of evaluating responses. Once the preferred provider has been identified, we will work with the new provider to ensure they are ready to start providing this service.

Are there any particular focuses a successful provider will need to have? There are some big health inequality issues in that area of Weston, so will that be something providers will be asked to focus on as part of their applications?

The contract we issue for the practice will set out what we want the provider of GP services to deliver and includes appropriate provisions in the event of poor performance by the contract holder. The future of the Locality Health Centre practice is important to the wider Healthy Weston vision to ensure a sustainable healthcare community for the area. When submitting a bid, providers were asked to confirm their approach to patient focus, equality and diversity.

How long will the next contract last for?

We hope to finalise arrangements soon for a new provider to start running the practice on November 1. The contract will be added to an existing GMS/PMS contract – this will provide stability and continuity for patients. As it will be an additional site for a practice it will also help to deliver better value for money for all.

Is there a particular reason why the current contract cannot be automatically renewed?

The contract with For All Healthy Living Company was time-limited. In these circumstances, it is good practice to check whether other providers are interested in providing the service, rather than automatically renewing the contract with the existing provider.