Ex-consultant’s patient choice fears over Lancaster GP merger plans

Some of the main GP surgeries in Lancaster could be merging.
Some of the main GP surgeries in Lancaster could be merging.
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Major plans for some of Lancaster’s biggest GP surgeries to merge and form a super practice have been met with concern from a former Royal Lancaster Infirmary consultant.

Consultation has now ended on proposals for Dalton Square, King Street and University, Owen Road and Rosebank surgeries to merge.

The surgeries have made a formal application to NHS England and a decision could be made this month.

If given the go-ahead, the new practice – to be named Lancaster Medical Practice – would form on April 1, after a further consultation process.

A statement on the surgery websites says: “The practices have been working in collaboration for a number of years. We currently share expertise and jointly employ a number of staff. The practices believe that by merging, we will become more sustainable organisations and will be able to respond well to the increasing national pressure on general practice and the NHS and will continue to deliver high quality services to the communities that we serve.”

Patients would still be able to see their preferred doctors, and a current review of how the appointment systems could lead to increased choice and longer opening hours.

Micro-teams of three or four GPs would be set up to support each other’s patient lists, and clinician expertise would be shared across the group. There are no plans to close any of the buildings.

Amy Williams, interim merger project lead, said: “The most important thing is the ethos and getting the right fit in terms of our shared values.

“We need to maintain patient continuity. The patient/doctor relationship is sacrosanct and will not be changed.

“General practice is really hard at the moment and we can offer a better service if we are together.”

However, John Cherry, a retired ENT consultant, said he felt it could ultimately lead to reduced patient choice.

He said: “At the moment people in Lancaster are quite fortunate as they have a number of practices to choose from. Ultimately there would be a joint management system leading to less patient choice.”

Mr Cherry said he also fears for the privatisation of such services in the future.

“My prediction is that in 10 to 20 years’ time the whole thing would be bought out by a group like Virgin Healthcare, who would end up employing the GPs and running the practices.”