Struggling out-of-hours GP service Shropdoc in contract bid

An out-of-hours GP service is looking to renegotiate its contracts with Shropshire’s community health trust, saying it faces serious financial challenges.

Shropdoc's website
Shropdoc's website

A meeting will be held next week between Shropdoc and the Shropshire Community Health Trust, after the doctor’s service said it was facing its most serious financial challenges in 21 years.

Shropdoc chairman, Dr Russell Muirhead, has written to GPs saying the service is costing far more than the money coming in. It says a number of posts have been lost and the chief executive has also left by mutual consentThe contract sees Shropdoc provide out-of-hours GP care in community hospitals. While the hospitals will have a doctor on-site during working hours, from about 6.30pm to 8am, Shropdoc will provide a GP who could also be called out to provide care in the local area.

Dr Muirhead said that Shropdoc has had a long term agreement to provide the services, and signed a new contract with commissioners in September 2016, which the community aspect was outside. It has now triggered the process to enable them to negotiate a more sustainable service.

He said: “Over the years the work load at the community units has increased and at the same time, the other out-of-hours service has increased so it is becoming difficult to balance those two services. The trigger will enable us to look at ways that we can continue to run both services equally well.”

He said the main cost pressures came from the cost of services not being reflected in the value, which Shropdoc has been able to address with other methods like trust subsidies, but also a number of GPs have been involved in a workforce project for urgent care project which has created problems, though he said that is also looking better.

Shropdoc is currently talking to all its commissioners and Dr Muirhead said they have been “very receptive and supportive”.

Dr Muirhead said: “Patient services will carry on, so it is business as usual.

“Our aim has always been quality of patient services and that is still very much what we are trying to do despite our difficulties.”

Shropdoc is planning to use trained medics called “urgent care practitioners” to support GPs in providing out-of-hours cover, as it’s reliant on a small number of doctors doing a large number of shifts to keep the service going

The community health trust now says it believes that any withdrawal of services would be some time away but that it hopes to reach an agreement before that becomes a possibility.

A spokesman for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust said: “We are aware of the challenges that ShropDoc are facing, and we have a meeting set up with them next week to discuss the way forward.”

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