You may have seen stories in the media today regarding the closure of GP surgeries across the country. We would like to reassure local people in Dorset that we are working with GPs, their teams and community staff to make sure services are available when you need them.

As you may be aware, Dorset is no different to other parts of the country where there are shortages of GPs. We are doing a number of things to overcome these shortages locally and develop a more resilient primary care network model.

We are providing significant investment in new roles including community pharmacists and social prescribing link workers to support general practices, as well as training more Advanced Nurse Practitioners within GP surgery teams.

On Portland, there is a majority Advanced Nurse Practitioner team working alongside GPs offering a fantastic service to the local community. They are able to carry out health assessments, diagnose, prescribe and refer onto secondary care services. Find out more about how Advanced Nurse Practitioners are relieving pressures on GP surgeries by watching this video.

The introduction of primary care networks, where GP surgeries will group together covering populations of around 30,000 to 50,0000 patients, will also enable practices to more effectively share resources, staff and expertise.

Dr Karen Kirkham, GP and Assistant Clinical Chair at the CCG, commented: “Continuity of care is hugely important to us as doctors and we are trying to preserve this. Elements of the primary care network vision have been in place in Dorset for a number of years already, but formally coming together as practices offers a huge opportunity.

“It will improve access to a number of highly trained professionals, such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and nurse practitioners, who are increasingly part of our everyday general practice team. Patients may not notice the difference, but we’ll be able to offer more extended hours, specialist clinics and have additional time to spend on patients who require longer appointments.”

The networks will be small enough to provide the personal care valued by both patients and GPs, but large enough to have impact and economies of scale through better collaboration between practices and others in the local health and social care system. Watch this video to learn more.

The standard of general practice in Dorset is very high with most practices being rated ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). GPs are however independent contractors, responsible for running their own practices. Although the CCG can’t reverse a GP’s decision to close or merge a practice, we will work with them to make sure that patients are not adversely affected.

Where circumstances are such that GP surgeries have opted to close, the top priority of the CCG is always to ensure patient safety via a smooth transition process to other local surgeries, meaning people can continue to receive primary care services seamlessly.

The CCG will continue to work with partners as part of our strategy going forward to ensure a sustainable primary care model for Dorset, which maintains a patient-centred approach.

To find out more about how your local practice operates, get involved in your Patient Participation Group (PPG).