GP surgeries will receive paid incentives to take on “violent and threatening” patients from a practice due to close.
Stockton’s Birchtree Practice, on Lawson Street, will shut its doors for the final time on March 31, 2019.
But is also home to what’s known as the “Special Allocation Scheme” (SAS) – previously known as the violent patient scheme – in offering GP care for more difficult patients.
To ensure SAS patients can continue to see a GP, Stockton and Hartlepool CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) have vowed to ensure SAS patients still at the practice will be transferred before March 31 next year.
Karen Hawkins, from the CCG, explained the SAS “violent patient scheme” had been in place for years and was a national programme.
She added: “It’s for any patients that attended GP practice – if they are aggressive, they might commit an offence, the police are called and they are then removed immediately from the GP list.
“But they cannot be without GP services irrelevant of what’s happened, so we traditionally commissioned a service for patients to go to one practice who would deliver it across a town.
“They might have to travel further for their appointment but they were still able to access general medical services.”
The idea behind the scheme is patients would then be “rehabilitated” to rejoin a mainstream GP surgery which would in turn be paid an “additional incentive” to pick up those patients and train up staff.
Ms Hawkins said there were 32 SAS patients in Stockton and 10 more in Hartlepool.
She added: “Stockton’s service has traditionally provided the violent patient scheme for Hartlepool but the Hartlepool element is going to a practice there.”
Members of Stockton’s adult social care select committee shared concerns about the plan.
Cllr Norma Stephenson thought the extra payment was “quite interesting”.
“I used to get extra money for dealing with violent patients in mental health but you don’t get it any more,” she added.
Cllr Barry Woodhouse had concerns about the “savage cutbacks” in mental provision and what support is provided for the GP services taking on the SAS patients departing Birchtree.
“I think the “SAS scheme” is a terrible phrase to use,” he added.
Cllr Evaline Cunningham asked whether GP practices were refusing to take patients.
Ms Hawkins said the CCG planned to “engage with surgeries next week” to discuss who would take patients – but couldn’t yet give on answer on whether they would take them or not.
She added: “All practices have open lists, patients will have choice even after an allocation.
“We will have conservations with the practices and work with them around the enhanced service but we haven’t got an indication yet until we start the engagement events with them.”
Earlier, the CCG representative confirmed GP surgeries receiving SAS patients would receive an “enhanced payment” to manage individuals.
Birchtree was placed in an emergency contract in 2016 and its substance misuse service was transferred to charity Change Grow Live (CGL).
But the GP surgery remained to serve both SAS patients, a number of whom had drug problems, and ordinary citizens.
Health bosses have decided not to renew the contract when it expires on March 31.
“Engagement events” to let patients know what’s going on will start at both the CGL headquarters, in William Street, and Birchtree Practice next week.
New surgery allocations for the 460 patients still on the roster at the Birchtree surgery will be sent out in February 2019.