Residents being passed between GPs after row over fees for treatment

Care home residents in Slough have been left without a regular GP
following a dispute between the home and a local surgery.

The Lady Astor Court nursing home claims that a £14,000 per
year retainer it used to pay to a local GP to look after its
residents was upped to £23,000 earlier this year – a fee which
the home’s owners, Southern Cross Healthcare, refused to pay.

The home’s manager, Alan Risk, said that the residents were then
taken off the GP’s books and had since been allocated to a
different GP every eight days by the local primary care

Risk described the charging of residents for services that others
received for free as “immoral”, and warned that some residents were
not being referred for specialist help as a result of the

“If they were living across the road in their own home they would
not be sending them a bill every time he visited the home,” he

Slough Primary Care Trust, which is responsible for ensuring that
the needs of the residents are met, confirmed that some residents
were being regularly swapped between GPs, but claimed that the
majority were receiving continuity of care. Negotiations with GP
practices were continuing in order to place all the residents, they

Policy officer for older people’s charity Age Concern Stephen Lowe
said he was aware that some GPs charged fees to care homes, but
said this was only acceptable if additional services were being
provided on top of NHS services.

“Our principle is that residents in care homes are entitled to NHS
services for free the same as anyone else in the community,” he

In an unrelated case, a residential care home in the Midlands
contacted three separate GPs in June to ask them to visit a woman
who was at the home for respite care.

None of the GPs agreed to come and so the home ended up dialling
999 in order to get medical attention for the woman.

The manager has since been informed by the National Care Standards
Commission and the local primary care trust that the home should
not accept any residents for respite care unless the individual has
a GP before they are admitted.

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