On Friday last week I met with the Chairman of the South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Dr Jonathan Bryant, and Hazel Carpenter, the CCG’s accountable officer, to discuss the funding and support for GP services in Folkestone. Following that meeting I wanted to update you with the latest information that I have.
The Folkestone East family practise is scheduled to close on 31st October, but before that time, every patient from that surgery will have been provided with an alternative local GP, and will be registered on the list of their practice. Letters are going out from the CCG to patients from the Folkestone East practice informing them of their options and letting them know where they can receive further help and advice. There are three local practices with open lists, meaning that they are actively seeking additional patients; these are the White House surgery in Cheriton, and both surgeries in Lyminge. In addition to these, the White Cliffs Medical Centre in Dover is accepting new patients, something that will be most relevant to the hundreds of patients from Capel-le Ferne, who are registered at the Folkestone East practice.
Patients who do not live within the catchment areas of one of these surgeries, will be offered a place at an alternative surgery in Folkestone, and the CCG is asking them to let them know which their preferred GP practice would be. If patients from Folkestone East do not nominate a GP surgery to be transferred to, then they will automatically be allocated to one; no-one will be left without a GP. Equally, the CCG has confirmed to me that any patient that is not happy with a GP surgery that they have been allocated to, can ask to be transferred to an alternative.
The CCG will be increasing funding to the GP practices in Folkestone that are taking on extra patients, above and beyond the funding per patient that they would normally receive. This will be awarded to them in the first year following the changes and represents an increase of around 50% of their current funding per patient – this will put the Folkestone practices well above the national average for funding during that year. This increased financial support includes some extra money that has been given to Folkestone by NHS England. The CCG is also funding new services to try and take pressure off of GP surgeries in Folkestone, including the new Home Visiting Service, which started on 14th August, where a team of paramedics, nurses and healthcare assistants carry out home visits to housebound patients on behalf of GP practices. Extra appointments with GPs, nurses, mental health professionals and physiotherapists, will also be available at Royal Victoria Hospital, from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, starting in early 2018.
When the Folkestone East practice closes, we will be losing a surgery, but not the three GPs who work from it; they will instead transfer to the Sandgate Road surgery. In the longer term, our priority has to be to identify and recruit more GPs to work in our area. The government is currently recruiting more GPs from overseas to work in the NHS, and we will benefit from that. The NHS is also working with the universities in Canterbury to create a new medical school for East Kent to work with local GP surgeries that are also training practices for new doctors. This will help to provide more of the doctors we need for the future.