CONCERNS have been raised by medical staff at the Central Lakes Medical Group which provide care at Ambleside and Hawkshead Health Centres following funding cuts by the CCG.

The Health Centre and the CCG had agreed temporary funding cover but has now been permanently removed.

Funding of £98000 was removed in 2018 and reduced to £73,000.

The practice, which provides services to over 6000 patients across 200 square miles, claimed they are funded 15% below the average practice funding in Cumbria.

The Partners have highlighted the funding inequality and its impacts on services as the cause for making the practice unviable.

Following a board meeting by the CCG/new Integrated Care Board, the funding’s removal was confirmed and replaced with £533 and instead an allocated £170,000 to fund a tourist service for South Lakes.

The Ambleside Health Centre stated they had worked with the MBPCC and were able to offer a solution to provide continuing care for patients that they claimed would have had no additional cost to the CCG or tax payer but the option was not accepted.

The Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC) has since been appointed as a caretaker care provider from January 1 to March 31.

Dr Paula Cook, a partner at the Health Centre, said: “We have had great support in trying to address this inequity from Tim Farron and the practice is very well regarded in the area by our patients.

“At the turn of this calendar year we were told by the CCG that the funding was to be removed from April 1.

“We went back to them and explained why that would leave us unsustainable and showed how we would struggle to operate safely without it.

“It affects the permanent viability of the practice and our ability to recruit a team that can deliver high quality care tailored to the needs of our population.

“The CCG outlined several projects they believed would solve those issues but advised they would not be finished until June, so they initially gave us funding until then.

“We were devastated when the outcome of that work was just a paltry £533. We are aware they have instead chosen to fund a service for tourists to the area.

“We have been struggling to continue to provide high quality care and pre covid levels of access to care such that this funding reduction is really quite insulting to our patients and their healthcare needs.

“We put together a good model for them to consider that would keep GP services going in the South Lakes with no change to patients, offering continuity of care and clinicians helping the tax payer by having no extra costs to residents.

“But they would not support it. We learned on Thursday that the decision was to accept our notice from December 31.

“We believe CHOC and their team are a very professional and well-regarded organisation and we already work in partnership with them but we do not believe this decision will be in the best interest of our patients.”

Andrew Giles from the MBPCC said: “MBPCC is a not-for-profit health care provider working across Morecambe Bay. We were created by all the local GP practices in the area coming together to help support them in their work caring for patients, we provide all the primary care education and training for practices, and run a range of clinical and support services for the people of South Cumbria and North Lancashire and our board is made up of local GP's from across our area.

“We were contacted by the Partners at CLMG, and they shared with us that they faced a difficult future, and so we have been working with them for a few months to see if there was some way, we could sustain local delivery of patient services with or for the partners.

“This resulted in a joint offer from the practice partners and MBPCC; made to the ICB (by the way the CCG is now known as the ICB after a recent change), to smoothly transition from the current partners to MBPCC running the practice.

“Unfortunately, this option wasn't selected, and instead the ICB has chosen to use a competitive tendering process to find a new provider, I understand this process will begin shortly, and will be an opportunity for any company to "bid" for the contract.

“This process is time consuming and so I understand a caretaker contract has been awarded to allow time for this process to be carried through the rest of 2022.

“Now that this decision has been made our hopes are more limited, but we hope the team mates that work in the practice are supported through what will be an unsettling, and difficult few months.

“I am confident they will continue to take great care of local people, and I am sure the residents, who are very supportive of the practice, will treat the team with kindness in what will be a stressful time.

“We also hope to be awarded the contract via the tendering process.”

A spokesperson for Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB said: “Dr Ward, Dr Davies, and Dr Cook (the GP partners) have not taken this decision lightly and are working with Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB to ensure there is a smooth transition at the end of December.

“As this process is likely to take some time, we will be working with local stakeholders to appoint a provider to take over the running of the practice on an interim basis; this arrangement will begin from 1 January 2023 and end on 31 March 2023, by which time the new GP Practice Provider will have been confirmed and will be in place.

“The ICB is committed to ensuring that all patients within Lancashire and South Cumbria continue to have access to high quality General Practice services.”

The Ambleside and Hawkshead surgeries will remain open, and the ICB are requesting feedback from patients through a questionnaire which will be circulated in the coming weeks.