Staffing issues lead to closure of GP practice

Northumberland's largest town is to lose one of its GP practices, which serves around 5,000 patients.

Collingwood Medical Group is based at Blyth Health Centre.
Collingwood Medical Group is based at Blyth Health Centre.

Collingwood Medical Group, based at Blyth Health Centre, will close on Friday, November 30, and the contract is not being re-tendered, with patients advised to register at other surgeries.

The practice is part of Northumbria Primary Care (NPC), a wholly-owned subsidiary company of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust that was set up in 2015, aiming ‘to help GPs meet the everyday challenges facing local practices through a single provider’.

But Julie Danskin, managing director of NPC, said: “Over the past three years, the practice team at Collingwood Medical Group has faced significant difficulties with regard to a number of issues, most notably in recruitment.

“The resulting over-reliance on locums has meant we haven’t been able to guarantee patients continuity from their doctor – which a high proportion need and which we feel everyone deserves.

“Over this period, no stone has been left unturned in an effort to resolve the issues and put the practice on a sustainable footing – the staff on the ground in particular have been amazing.

“Unfortunately, these efforts have not been successful we have been forced to give notice to terminate the contract.

“In the interim, we are working closely with other practices in the area and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure a safe handover of care for all those patients affected.”

Siobhan Brown, chief operating officer for NHS Northumberland CCG, which buys health services for the county, said a decision had to be taken on ‘how best to ensure patients continue to have access to healthcare locally’.

“After careful consideration of all the available options, including the procurement of another contract, the CCG reluctantly decided that the practice will close permanently and stop delivering GP services on November 30.

“Together with NHS England, we are working closely with neighbouring practices to ensure they are supported during this period.

“We would like to reassure patients that the CCG is committed to ensuring that they have access to the best healthcare as close to home as possible.”

Meanwhile, Healthwatch Northumberland, which looks after the interests of patients, is monitoring the situation and ensuring patients receive clear information.

A spokeswoman said: “Our focus is to ensure that the change works for patients and does not disrupt their healthcare.

“Some patients have contacted us with concerns about re-registering and we have helped them resolve their issues. We would encourage anyone who is worried about the process to contact us.

“We are aware that the closure of Collingwood Surgery could impact on neighbouring practices and again we would urge people to contact us with those concerns so that we can let the CCG know how the changes are affecting people and how GP services can be made to work for the people of Blyth.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service