Our local GPs are the gateway to the NHS for many of us, and it’s vital that this service is available for all. In May this year, the current operators of the Folkestone East Family Practice gave notice that they would not continue their work beyond the beginning of November. This decision means that the NHS has to make alternative provision available for the 5000 patients on the list of that practice. This point was reiterated by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, when I brought the issue to his attention. He quite rightly stated to me that the Department for Health, ‘would not allow local people in Folkestone to go without access to this critical service.’
Since then South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the GP led body which oversees primary care in the Shepway and Dover Districts, has been working to implement a plan to make sure that patients have access to the services they need. It is their responsibility to make sure that this is delivered. Last week I spoke with Dr Jonathan Bryant, the Chair of the CCG, and Hazel Carpenter, its accountable officer, to discuss the additional resources that are required by GPs practices in Folkestone. Later this month, I will be meeting with them, and representatives of the Folkestone GPs to go through their proposals.
The existing GP practices in the town have made clear that they require extra resources, above and beyond the funding per patient they receive, if they are to take on the responsibility for the care of more people. The CCG has offered an initial increase of over 50% for the funding per patient for GP practices in Folkestone, to help with this. There is an ongoing negotiation between the CCG and the GPs over whether this is enough. So far over 1500 people have been successfully moved from the list of the Folkestone East practice to new surgeries, and all patients must be allocated a new GP, either at an existing practice, or through new doctors being brought in to work in the town.
In addition to the CCG’s offer of extra resources for GPs in Folkestone, they are spending £1.2million on new services. These including the new Home Visiting Service, which started on 14th August, which is a team of paramedics, nurses and healthcare assistants who carry out home visits to housebound patients on behalf of GP practices. Extra appointments with GPs, nurses, mental health professionals and physiotherapists, will be available at Royal Victoria Hospital, from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, starting in early 2018. If someone needs an urgent appointment, and their practice can’t fit them in, the practice can arrange for an immediate appointment there. Kent is one of the areas chosen by the national NHS to receive additional overseas GPs, who are being recruited now, and looking to the longer term, the CCG is supporting the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University’s bid for a new medical school, to educate the next generation of GPs for coastal communities such as ours. The CCG is also working on plans to build a new large primary care centre in Folkestone, where you will be able to be seen by a whole range of professionals on the same day, if that’s what you need.