Lincolnshire GPs threaten to stop providing all ‘unfunded work’

Lincolnshire GPs will stop providing services such as blood pressure monitoring, ear care and heart rhythm check ups unless they receive additional funding.

An estimated 100 GP practices have written to clinical commissioning groups in the county, notifying them of their intention to stop providing non-essential services.

Treatment such as ECGs which check the heart rhythm and electrical activity of patients, 24 hour blood pressure monitoring and ear care could stop being provided by GPs.

This form of action has been organised and coordinated by the Lincolnshire Local Medical Committee, and is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.

Dr Kieran Sharrock, medical director of the Lincolnshire LMC, said that general practice had been stretched to breaking point due to increasing demand with a reduced workforce and a shrinking real terms funding.

He said: “Practices are finding it more difficult to provide safe core services, such as seeing acutely unwell patients, and managing patients with long-term conditions.

“Some services which practices currently provide are commissioned from other providers, but not from practices. For instance ECG recording is commissioned from the hospital trusts.

“General practices are not commissioned to do this, but practices are performing them.

“When times were easier in general practice; funding was more adequate, workforce was available, and workload was less, we started doing these things because we had capacity, and felt that it would be good for patients.

“We wish this was still the case.

Now we do not have the capacity to carry out these services at the expense of our core work.

“If these services were commissioned directly from surgeries, or subcontracted to surgeries, we could employ staff to carry out this work, and free up nurse and GP time to carry out our core contracted services.

“Practices do not want to stop performing these services, we know that patients prefer having them performed locally.”

Speaking on behalf of Lincolnshire’s clinical commissioning groups, Gary James, accountable officer, Lincolnshire East CCG, said: “As CCGs we are talking with our member practices and the LMC in an effort to address practices’ concerns and find suitable solutions.

“This may take time to work through, however, patient safety is always our first priority and we want our GPs to be able to continue to offer Lincolnshire patients a safe and high quality service.”