NHS Isle of Wight CCG has approved the first GP practice mergers on the island.
Carisbrooke Medical Centre and the Dower House Surgery, in Newport, will merge from 1 October, while Ventnor Medical Centre and Grove House Surgery, in Ventnor, will become one organisation from 1 April 2020.
Although practice mergers are not uncommon on the mainland – with surgery closures having risen almost eight-fold in six years across the UK following practice, branch closures or a merger – the four surgeries are the first to merge in the isle.
The four surgeries will retain all four of their existing buildings and there will be ‘no loss of any staff jobs’, NHS Isle of Wight CCG said.
Both the CCG and the four practices believe the mergers ‘are in the best interest of patients’ and will allow the practices to better meet demand at a time of growing pressure on primary care services.
Building greater resilience
Practice managers and GPs will be able to broaden their clinical team and build greater resilience, ‘with more robust cover for staff holiday leave and sickness’, the CCG said.
Dower House Surgery and Carisbrooke Medical Centre are already working closely together and, in 2018, they launched ‘a minor illness service to help meet the demand for same-day appointments, commissioned a musculo-skeletal service (MSK) and piloted a prescription ordering service’.
The practices believe that merging will allow them, among other benefits, to offer a wider choice of appointments at either site and make it easier for them to recruit GPs with diverse specialisms, such as in dermatology or mental health.
Grove House and Ventnor Medical Centre, whose sites are around 200 metres apart, already share an advanced nurse practitioner and believe the merger will make their practices more resilient, ‘especially at a time when so many practices face real issues when GPs leave or retire’.
Despite recent pledges by Prime Minister Theresa May to recruit 5,000 GPs ‘as soon as possible’, data by NHS Digital released earlier this month shows that it will be difficult to plug the gaps in GP workforce, as the number of fully-qualified GPs in England has fallen by 441 over the past year.