General practitioner England

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GP raises alarm over fragmentation of practice services

A GP has expressed concern about the fragmentation of NHS care after ancillary services were moved from her surgery.

Lancashire GP Margaret France said many older patients now had to travel more than an hour on public transport for general podiatry services that used to be housed within her practice.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which holds the contracts for such services, has also transferred health visitor services from Dr France’s Withnell Health Centre to the new Buckshaw Village Health Centre about 10.5km (6.5 miles) away.

But Dr France and her two GP partners did successfully fight off an attempt to move their district nurses to the new health centre, which opened fully this year.

Dr France contacted the BMA’s NHS Watch web hub, which is documenting the impact of NHS reforms on services, patients and the profession. 

The trust said it was exploring the possibility of moving podiatry services back to Withnell.

Dr France said: ‘I’m sure it’s an exercise in economics. Withdraw from central service control to make them cheaper and more efficient but on a person-to-person basis it does not work.’

Unreasonable journey

Dr France added that for some of the older patients without cars it means a one-hour 15-minute bus journey.

‘My concern is that a good half [of the patients] will drop out altogether or just end up paying for some private podiatry,’ she said.

Dr France said the move also had an impact on the daily communication the doctors had with health visitors and podiatrists.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘Following a review of the current facilities at Withnell Health Centre, the decision was made to move the trust’s podiatry and health-visiting services to Buckshaw Village Health Centre.

'The existing space, which was being used for clinical podiatry care, was not felt to be fit for purpose and the centre was no longer able to accommodate the size of the health-visiting team.

‘Since the move, the trust has been addressing concerns raised by staff and service users and has been working to resolve these.

'The trust is exploring the possibility of moving the podiatry services back to Withnell Health Centre, providing that an alternative, suitable clinical space can be found.’