GP practice shuts its doors to thousands of patients after insurance blunder

A GP practice has closed its doors completely after its insurance lapsed leaving thousands of patients without access to a doctor.

The NHS watchdog has been made aware of the situation at the Blandford Group Practice in Dorset and will be contacting the surgery to establish the cause of the incident, The Telegraph understands.

One GP group has warned it is the first “overtly dramatic” case highlighting the “assault” of admin and bureaucracy family doctors face, and is a key factor why so many GPs are leaving the health service.

It comes amid mounting concern over the difficulties patients face in seeing GPs face to face. 

Before the pandemic, about 80 per cent of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery.

But the latest monthly figure is just 58 per cent, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a “face-to-face” appointment.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) said it has called for a “system-wide programme to eradicate unnecessary workload” after doctors and GPs find themselves “snowed under with bureaucracy”.

The Blandford Group Practice cares for around 24,000 people in the area, according to latest official data.

Insurance error

A statement on the group’s website on Monday night said “arrangements are being made to ensure urgent care can continue” after its public liability insurance had lapsed.

The insurance covers practices against cases of patients suffering injury or harm on their premises. 

But patients told The Telegraph on Tuesday the surgery was uncontactable and they are concerned about accessing vital prescriptions. 

Geoff Smith, 58, a teacher from Blandford, said his nine-year-old grandson is epileptic and relies on medication to control his seizures but the family are “really concerned” the surgery will not sign off his repeat prescription.

“He has three serious drugs which have to be prescribed to control his epilepsy … and my daughter doesn’t know whether or not that prescription, which needs to be repeated this week, will be issued because we can’t contact the surgery and we don’t know what they’re doing,” he told The Telegraph. 

Mr Smith has been a patient at the surgery for 23 years but said he no longer has any “confidence” in the practice.

In a statement on the group’s website and Facebook page, the practice said: “The Blandford Group Practice has had to make the difficult decision to temporarily postpone non-urgent routine appointments due to a lapse in public liability insurance.

“Our team are working extremely hard to put measures in place to allow services to return to normal at the earliest opportunity, this includes the weekend vaccination clinics.

“We would like to reassure patients that this is an insurance issue and not a clinical care issue.”

Remote consultation platform also unavailable

The surgery’s remote consultation platform is also unavailable, the statement said. 

Blandford Group Practice did not respond to repeated requests for comment by The Telegraph.

A spokesperson for NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are aware of the situation at the Blandford Group Practice and are continuing to work alongside local partners to support them.”

A spokesperson for the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which inspects health and social care services in England, said: “We are aware of this situation and will be speaking to the practice and partner agencies to understand what has occurred and seek assurance that any risks are being mitigated while the issue is being addressed by local bodies.”

It is understood the CQC could issue a regulatory response if it is found the practice is at fault for the lapse in insurance. 

Dr John Hughes, chairman of grassroots campaign group GP Survival, said there has been an “explosion” of admin tasks in the last decade for GPs.

“Most GPs, in addition to seeing patients, are spending two, three hours a day simply dealing with the admin and that’s just the doctors’ side of stuff,” he said.

“The stuff that the practice managers or administration staff are dealing with is vastly greater.

“Given that deluge, it’s unfortunate, but probably not unreasonable, that something like renewing your insurance could slip through, in the same way that people forget to get their car MOT’d or renew their motor insurance until they get the red reminder in the post. 

“I think that’s probably what’s happened.”

One of the reasons why GPs are leaving the profession

He added: “This is the first overtly dramatic case, but it’s certainly one of the main things that’s quoted in the reason GPs are leaving the profession.”

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the RCGP, said: “GPs spend a large amount of their time on box-ticking and filling forms, which is frustrating because it takes us away from frontline patient care – but the non-clinical members of our practice teams, such as our practice managers and receptionists, also often find themselves snowed under with bureaucracy.” 

It comes amid mounting concern over the difficulties patients face in seeing GPs face to face. 

Before the pandemic, about 80 per cent of consultations took place in a doctor’s surgery.

But the latest monthly figure is just 58 per cent, with little change since officials vowed in May to give all patients the right to a “face-to-face” appointment.

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