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A primary care trust (PCT) in the East of England has faced criticism over plans to save £6m by closing up to nine GP practices, with local providers claiming this would lead to a "dangerous shortfall in GP provision".
NHS Peterborough launched a consultation over its "overarching vision for primary care" in May 2011, which will close on Thursday (18 August 2011).
The document outlines three options to alter GP primary care services in the city, with the PCT's preferred third option involving closing several smaller surgeries and improving remaining larger surgeries' premises and potential to expand to take on the additional patients.
However, Amanda Harrington, Practice Manager for the Burghley Road Practice, which faces closure if the plans go ahead, told GP Online: "There is no way our patients can be absorbed in and around the local area."
But NHS Peterborough says the financial climate means the situation needs to be addressed.
"We need to release savings to invest in the GP practices in Peterborough to ensure they can meet future healthcare needs, " the PCT said. "The current economic situation in this country has presented the NHS with a huge challenge, which is to continue to improve the quality of services with a limited budget."
However, a report submitted to the PCT consultation from GP-led providers 3Well Medical, which runs one of the surgeries facing closure, said the proposals could put patients' health at risk and lead to an increase of 20,000-30,000 A&E visits per year.
It claims that shutting the smaller surgeries would leave the remaining enhanced surgeries needing to take on 80,000 more appointments, while claiming that their capacity would be 53,000.
The 3Well Medical report says: "There is a significant risk that there will be a potentially dangerous shortfall in GP provision under this [PCT-preferred] option".
However, Peter Wightman, Interim Director of Primary Care at NHS Peterborough, told the city's Evening Telegraph newspaper: "The analysis undertaken by 3Well is unclear because it mixes current and future population requirements. We are confident there are good alternatives for these patients."
Peterborough has the third highest spend per person on primary care in England, which the PCT says is largely due to the high number of smaller practices in the area that are on average 30% more expensive to run than larger practices.