News that the face of GP services in Banbury is to change has been met with concern by Banbury Labour’s Health Matters group.
Chair Sue Edgar says there has been inadequate consultation and people’s views have been ignored. She described use of non-GP clinical practitioners as insufficient and the possible outcomes of consultation by apps as ‘terrifying’.
Mrs Edgar spoke out after Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) described how three Banbury GP surgeries were to merge.
OCCG said more use would be made of nurses, pharmacists and paramedics.
Social prescribing (directing patients towards healthy or social activities) would be a new feature and that the group has contracted a GP online specialist to help GP surgeries make more use of technology.
Mrs Edgar said: “Three Banbury practices are being vacuumed up by a single company.
“It’s change with huge implications. Consultation has been a mess and now it seems merger proposals are only being consulted on at surgery level.
“Social prescribing, piloted in Banbury last year and shown to be a failure, is being rolled out anyway.
“There was just an evening event where opinions were sought but only written down or acted on if they matched the CCG’s intentions.
“We raised several serious issues but these went unrecorded.”
Mrs Edgar said private contracts and the new shape of services have been ‘imposed’.
“Again, there was a quiet event last winter, which we attended but I see no evidence of our voice or anyone else’s views having been heard,” she said.
“Nurses, pharmacists, online consultations and paramedical home visits are not a substitute for seeing a GP. They are useful adjuncts, but are not an answer to the problems.
“It is frightening to see them offered up as a solution to the crisis in primary care.
“It is also terrifying that online services have been hived off to an unnamed private provider while the Care Quality Commission is voicing grave doubts about the reliability of some of them.
“The GP profession has grave concerns about the safety aspects. Until we know who is providing the service and on what model, it is impossible to say how safe it will be.
“Who is the provider, what will they be responsible for, how much will they be paid, what effect will this have on existing practices and who will hold them to account?
“These measures are inadequately researched, barely consulted upon and woefully inadequate to meet the crisis that is going to smash into the whole NHS this winter.
“The GP recruitment crisis, which could have been prevented, is being met with a completely unrealistic patchwork of weak half measures.”
A spokesman for OCCG said: “The (GP) practices and Principal Medical Ltd have been actively engaging with each practice patient participation group (PPG) and have held a joint PPG meeting.
“After extensive evaluation by the CCG, GP practices and patient representatives, OCCG has appointed eConsult as their online consultation provider. This will give patients the option to consult with their own GP practice virtually, to get help with clinical conditions without needing to go to the practice.
“The contract will be managed by the CCG, rolled out by each GP practice giving access to their registered patients.
“It is different from some online service providers as it allows the patient to stay registered with their own GP.”