A private company that runs a Newcastle GP practice will end its contract more than two years early.
Grainger GP Practice at Elswick Health Centre was controversially taken over by Care UK in September 2012 and was committed to run the service until the end of August 2017.
The move sparked fierce opposition from health professionals and campaign groups as they claimed the company did not have a record of delivering high-quality GP care in deprived areas.
Now Care UK has announced it will exit its five-year contract halfway through its tenure and depart at the end of January next year. The company refused to give reasons as to why the contract was ending early.
Doctor Leah McAleer left Grainger GP Practice following the appointment of Care UK, and campaign group Keep Our NHS Public North East has always had concerns about the private company.
Martin Manasse, a member of the campaign group said: “It is shameful that Care UK is exiting their contract early, but I believe it was predictable. We said when the company took over that the money available from their bid was not enough for what they claimed they were going to do with the GP practice.”
Approximately 7,000 patients are registered with Grainger GP Practice and health chiefs have insisted that patients do not need to register elsewhere as they remain confident an alternative provider can be secured without any disruption.
The announcement by Care UK comes just weeks after nearby Scotswood GP practice was told that it is under threat following a recent contract review of its provider.
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said: “Patients deserve continuity of care if we are going to overcome health inequalities. Patients need to have trust in GP services and that comes by building up a relationship with those who run services. If care providers come in and exit for unknown reasons then that damages services.”
Patients registered with the doctors’ practice in Elswick have received a letter informing them of the changes.
A Care UK spokesperson said: “Since being chosen to run the Grainger Medical Practice we have worked hard to improve the service for local people.
“However, after reviewing our business strategy and having conversations with the commissioner, it was decided that Care UK will not run the service past January 2015. We are committed to working closely with the commissioner and whoever is chosen to run the service after us to ensure the practice’s 7,000 patients are not affected in any way by a change of provider.”
The Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team of NHS England is responsible for commissioning GP services in the local area and will seek the views of patients.
Dr Mike Prentice, medical director for the team, said: “We recognise the need for a GP practice in the area and are confident that an alternative provider can be secured in this time frame, and that there will be no disruption to patients.
“We have written to all patients to let them know about this change. There is no need to re-register with another GP, though patients do have that option if they wish.
“This is a good opportunity for people to let us know if there are things we can do to improve the service, and we will be contacting patients again in the near future to ask for their views.
“Ensuring continuity of access to high quality care and services remains our top priority.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 03 May 2014