Soho Square General Practice update, 30th September 2019

Current managers of the surgery, Living Care, have decided to cease operating at the end of March 2020. Whilst this may not sound like good news, it presents an opportunity to restore the excellent practice that we feel patients deserve. We would like to see the Soho Square General Practice resume:

  • A level of service provision by qualified medics and administrators who understand the needs of our neighbourhood and its patients

  • Working with the Patient Participation Group to ensure excellence in medical care and support standards for all surgery users

Living Care Medical Services Limited (“LC”) are handing back their contract with effect from 31st March 2020 (when they will have completed just under 4 yours of a 5 year contract, which could have been renewed for a further 5 years). 

It has been a mystery as to why LC have continued to run the practice for so long after having “lost” their other three London Practices ten months ago.  They have regularly said it was running at a substantial loss. 

We believe that they kept going because, as they told us, they were in discussion with the NHS to take over the whole Health Centre, installing a private diagnostic Centre on the top two floors, and also a private cosmetic clinic.  They told us a month ago that they were no longer pursuing the proposal to take over the whole Health Centre.

Although NHS/CLCCG (Central London Clinical Commissioning Group) is sending out consultation letters to patients and community stakeholders, they have decided to advertise the practice immediately  (tender documents were sent out last week to “interested parties” with a view to getting another provider), rather than wait to seek responses to a proposal to close the practice.

It is likely that  the CLCCG have decided to go straight to procuring another provider, rather than wait until they get responses to the consultation letter, because they know there would be major opposition to closing the practice and dispersing patients.

It is likely also that local surgeries have said they are unwilling to taking on 4,500 patients between them in a short period of time.

BUT it is important that patients and stakeholders respond to the consultation and say what sort of practice is needed to meet the diverse needs of our demographic.

CLCCG are inviting bids for APMS (commercial) contracts for: (i) Randolph Practice in Maida Vale (7,500 patients); (2) Soho Square General Practice (4,500 patients); or (3) Randolph and Soho as one contract (1200 patients).

It is thought unlikely that anyone will bid for Soho as a stand alone contract, as it is believed to be financially unviable for a surgery with a list size of less than 8,000 patients to run at a profit, although staff tell us that the income side is very healthy, and it is understood that Living Care are taking very large sums out of the budget as a contribution to their head office costs, including head office staff costs.

We believe/fear CLCCG may have someone lined up to bid for option (3). A contract for that number of patients would be an attractive proposition to commercial/already large providers.

BUT there is no way that Randolph + Soho can be considered a sensible match, given its very different patient demographics.

The commonsense option, which would reflect the shared demographics of the two Practices, would be an amalgamation with Covent Garden Medical Centre, which would give a combined patient roll of 8,000.  But Covent Garden has a single partner and it is unlikely that he would feel able to bid for Soho.  Similarly, the Federation of GP practices in the north of Westminster, the CLH (Central London Healthcare) have intimated that, as a non-profit making, CIC company, it is unlikely that they would feel able to bid for an APMS (“commercial”) contract.

However, an article in the Guardian a few days ago talked about changes expected to be contained in the Queen’s Speech which would withdraw the current NHS requirement to go out to tender.  This would mean that local arrangements could be considered which are not tied to commercial/large providers seeking to increase their portfolio.

So we do not understand why the NHS/CLCCG are going ahead with procurement at such breakneck speed.  

The Soho Society plans to make representations to the CLCCG (Central London Clinical Commissioning Group) and to local  politicians of  the need for a local solution to restore the excellent level of health care that patients deserve and experienced until two years ago.

Separate but running alongside the Soho Square General Practice issue, is the fact that the CLCCG have said that the walk-in clinic on the ground floor will close at end March 2020; and that some occupants of the building have been told that the site “will be sold”.