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NHS England practice closure consultation slammed

26 August 2014

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An NHS England consultation into the closure of two practices has been slammed as “contradictory” and “fragmented”. 

Thousands of patients were not informed about the proposed changes, and letters were sent that said the wrong surgery was closing. 

Health watchdog Healthwatch said it was “disappointed” by the way NHS England had approached patient engagement and communications. 

The initial letter informing patients of a possible closure was sent to people on the register of a neighbouring practice even though they would not be affected. 

At the practice in question, 30% of patients received the first letter. For those who did receive the letter, several pages were missing. 

Local Healthwatch in Westminster, where the practices are based, said the language used in the letters was “confusing”, “leading” and “promoted dispersal”. 

From September Central London Community Healthcare Trust will end funding of two GP surgeries. 

NHS England had been made aware in April of the change. Patients were told in late-June that the surgeries could be closed and patients “dispersed” to neighbouring doctors, or remain open with a new contractor found to run then. 

Of the 120 people who completed the Healthwatch survey, 83% said they did not think they were informed early enough and more than 70% said the information was unclear. 

A final decision on Milne House is expected at the end of the week. 

An NHS England spokesperson said: ““NHS England (London) makes every effort to ensure all patients are actively involved in decisions about the future of their health services. Along with writing to patients, we held drop in sessions for Soho Square General Practice, West Two Health and Milne House Medical Centre, where patients could raise concerns or get more information about the consultation process.

“Patients were invited to voice their opinions online, by post or in person during these meetings or at their practice. We recognise there were issues with the consultation for these practices, for example, some patients did not receive their letters and were confused with the wording of the letters. However, we took several steps to rectify this by issuing further letters offering clarification and holding drop in sessions for patients to ask further questions.”