A practice caring for patients under a Special Allocation Scheme (SAS) will close next year as it only has a limited number of patients.
The Birchtree practice in Stockton-on-Tees currently provides GP services to 460 patients. Of these, 42 are on the SAS scheme – which was introduced in 2004 to ensure individuals removed from other practices’ lists due to violent behaviour are still able to access GP care.
In a statement, NHS Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG said: ‘We have taken the decision to permanently close the Birchtree GP Practice on Lawson Street, Stockton-on-Tees on 31st March 2019 due to the very low numbers of patients remaining at the practice.’
The CCG has had plans to close Birchtree since 2016, when it failed to find a long-term provider for the practice.
However, to avoid a sudden closure of the practice, the CCG decided to issue an emergency contract with another Stockton practice to provide GP services from Birchtree until 31 March 2019.
Early on, the CCG started encouraging patients to register with a new practice. The intention was that Birchtree ‘would close at the end of the contract’, according to CCG chief officer Ali Wilson.
Now – after several years with this policy in place – there are only a few patients remaining on the practice’s register. This lead the CCG to the conclusion that the timing was right to announce that the practice will be closing permanently next year.
At present, the CCG is looking for another practice that will be able to offer care to patients on the SAS scheme.
In line with national regulations, the new provider will be offered an enhanced payment to be able to safely care for the patients on the scheme.
A CCG spokesperson said: ‘The SAS scheme is a Directed Enhanced Service, which is a national enhanced service commissioned by NHS England. As such, the scheme attracts an enhanced payment, above the payment for the provision of core general medical services.’
BMA GPC chair Richard Vautrey said that it is ‘important to ensure those practices signing up to the enhanced service have the necessary skills and support to enable this challenging group of patients to get the appropriate service’.
According to NHS England, commissioners of SAS services need to make sure both clinical and non-clinical staff are trained in basic safeguarding for children and vulnerable adults, among a series of measures to guarantee the practice provides a safe service.
Non-SAS practices can refuse to register violent patients following amendments to the 2018/19 GP contract, which also allows them to remove ‘mistakenly registered’ violent patients.