There can be many reasons for wanting to close a branch surgery, including the premises not being fit for purpose, the lease coming to an end or it not being financially viable to continue to see patients from it. You might think that closing a branch surgery should be fairly straightforward, particularly if the patients can be seen at your main site just down the road and there are potential cost savings to be had for both you and the NHS. So what’s the issue?
Your obligations when closing a branch surgery
As the holder of a GMS or PMS contract, you are not permitted to close a surgery site without first going through a statutory process. Briefly, this requires you to:
- alert the ICB of your intentions and follow the agreed consultation guidelines
- consult with the LMC, the patient participation group and other stakeholders (such as local residents, other local GP practices, registered patients, local community groups, local allied health care professional organisations)
- submit a formal application to close the branch surgery to the ICB
Failure to do these things could put you in breach of your GMS contract.
Tips for a successful closure application
As far as the ICB is concerned a site closure will result in a major change to patient delivery, an alteration to your GMS service provision and potentially a change to the money you receive under your GMS contract once it is varied to reflect the closure.
Be as pro-active as you can in your formal application to the ICB. Time spent on the consultation process and collating all the relevant information to include in your application, will be time well spent. Try to present your application to close a branch surgery with solutions rather than problems. Provide as much information as you can about how your registered patients will be impacted – will they have better access, less wait for appointments, the benefit of extended hours, dispensing services etc.
Other considerations when closing a branch surgery
If closure is approved, don’t forget to consult with your staff and take advice if closure might result in redundancies or a change to their place of work or working hours. Getting it wrong can be a costly mistake.
If you lease your branch surgery, then you will need to bring the lease to an end. Even if you don’t have a written lease in place, you might still have an implied lease or protected rights under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 which need to be brought to an end in order to release you from your liabilities.
If the branch surgery is freehold and a partnership asset, then you will need to take tax advice and speak to your lender if there is a mortgage on it. Failure to do so could put you in breach of your mortgage terms. Remember that you will remain responsible for the branch surgery premises from the date of closure, when payments under the Premises Costs directions will stop.
If you plan well ahead, you can make informed and sensible business decisions that minimise risk. If you would like further advice on closing a branch surgery, terminating your lease or managing staff, then please contact us on 01483 511555 or email email@example.com and we will call you back for a free initial chat.