• Services to consolidate into two neighbouring practices from 1 August
  • Follows multiple GP retirements and premises concern
  • Councillors and MP are worried
  • Modality says it will improve safety and sustainability

The prominent GP “super partnership” Modality will close one of five GP surgeries it runs in Hull, which it says will make its services in the city safe and sustainable.

Hull Clinical Commissioning Group has approved an application from Modality Partnership Hull to shut one of the sites and consolidate its services and patient lists into the remaining sites.

This was driven primarily by “immediate and serious workforce pressures” because the practices have seen a “significant reduction” in their GP workforce in the past nine months, the CCG said.

Closing the practice is “in the interest of patient safety”, Modality told HSJ. It comes after a patient engagement exercise, which drew a mixture of positive and negative responses, the provider said.

Some patients questioned whether the move to close Faith House was a “‘money-making’ exercise by Modality Partnership”.

The CCG’s primary care committee has approved the request to close the site despite Hull City Council’s health and social wellbeing overview and scrutiny commission saying it did not support the move. The council commission also questioned “the drivers and evidence base for change”.

Local MP Diana Johnson has campaigned against the closure of the surgery in the past, including in February when she posted a petition on her website to “save Faith House Surgery”.

This local opposition notwithstanding, the practice will close in August and its services and patients will move into two neighbouring Modality practices. Five GP practices in the city joined Modality in April 2017. Last summer they were merged under the same contract, after which Modality began a review of services at three of the sites.

It said it found the physical premises of one practice, Faith House, least suitable owing to its deteriorating condition, as well as limited scope for redevelopment and expansion. A CCG primary care estate review last year supported this view.

However, a new CCG paper to be presented to the scrutiny commission next week indicates a continuing drop in the GP workforce. There has been a spate of retirements by GP partners, plus one resignation, while others have decided to cut their hours.

The paper says: “Despite a number of proactive steps having already been taken to recruit GPs, the partnership has seen a significant reduction in the GP capacity and with imminent retirements by the end of July there will be 15.8 GPs left to support approximately 61,000 patients.”

It says the “partnership has recruited to a number of other clinical roles to part mitigate the impact of the above” but “there remains an important role for GPs as senior clinicians [and] to see the most complex patient cases”.

This would mean one FTE GP per 3,850 patients, “double that of the England average”, according to the CCG paper.

Modality Partnership Hull executive partner Elizabeth Dobson told HSJ: “There is a national shortage of GPs - the workforce challenges are a consequence of policy, pension regulation and market forces.

“Further, Hull is an area of deprivation, with GP average earnings lower in Hull compared with neighbouring areas, which makes recruiting challenging. It is an imperfect situation but as part of a larger group, we have and are continuing to make positive steps forward to ensure we are delivering a safe service.”

A Hull CCG spokeswoman told HSJ: “In light of the workforce issues highlighted, and the potential risk to the safe delivery of services to patients in the future, the committee approved the application. The CCG will continue to support the Modality Partnership to manage these challenges and changes to service delivery.”