Four mergers are already on the table and under discussion and Doncaster Local Medical Committee Medical Secretary and borough GP Dean Eggitt believes they will be the first of many as borough doctors try to find ways of balancing the books and finding ways to cover for staff absence.
Proposals currently on the table would see link-ups between Carcroft Health Centre and Princess Medical Centre in Woodlands; the Village Practice, Armthorpe and Auckley Surgery; The Oakwood Surgery, Cantley, and The Mayflower Medical Practice in Bawtry and Finningley. A deal to link The Phoenix Medical Practice on South Parade in the town centre and the Flying Scotsman Centre, also in the town centre, has also been proposed.
The current Phoenix building is the only one that is proposed to close.
All four proposals have been lodged with the Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group for consideration.
More links between family doctors are also being developed through the creation of a Doncaster GPs Federation, which is putting in place links between all 43 GP practices in the borough.
Dr Dean Eggitt, who works at Oakwood Surgery, believes the mergers will benefit patients, make it easier for practices to provide cover for staff illness and making practices more likely to be able to access funding which is sometimes only available for bigger practices.
He said: "A lot of the problems are about sustainability and being able to afford to run a practice. Merging brings together a number of GPs. It is about how many people you have in the pot to pay bills. If you have more then you have more buying power."
He said there were funding pots available from the Government for certain services that were only available to organisations which look after a certain number of patients.
He said he expected a move in Doncaster to set up a federation including all its GP practices would help access some of that money for services such as physiotherapists who would be able to work out in the community, rather than in hospitals, in turn taking pressure of hospitals.
He says his surgery's merger plans will benefit his patients.
The federation has already been put in place, complete with a management structure.
"I think there have to be me more mergers to follow," said Dr Eggitt.
Dr David Crichton, chairman of Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, said the current number of 43 practices in the borough was quite a lot compared to some areas.
He said: "Patient groups of 30,000 to 50,000 is the national advice. I don't think we will get to 50,000 in Doncaster but there is recognition that there are some smaller practices.
"I'm not aware of any more, but I would not be surprised if more practices come together to merge in the future."
Andrew Goodall, chief operating officer Healthwatch Doncaster, said his organisation had been invited to take part in the discussions over the proposed changes.
He is urging anyone with concerns over the plans to get in touch with the organisation, but said they had yet to receive any calls regarding concerns over the plans.
He said: "Healthwatch Doncaster has been involved with discussions, local meetings and participatio group meetings, and discussions about ensuring quality of service provision, and we are still actively involved in the process."
Anyone who has any concerns had contact Healthwatch Doncaster through its website www.healthwatchdoncaster.org.uk
Oakwood and Mayflower
Oakwood practice GP Dr Dean Eggitt believes a lot of the problems are about sustainablilty of smaller surgeries.
He said: "It is about being able to afford to run practices. Merging will give us better buying power.
"We would not be doing this if we did not think there was an advantage for our patients. We think this is the best way to sustain improvements for the patients."
Auckley and Armthorpe
Auckley and Armthorpe Village could be merged by next summer.
Auckley Surgery Practice Manager Liz Leggott said: "Auckley Surgery and The Village Practice made the decision to discuss a possible merger earlier this year for a number of reasons, the main being the threat to sustainability for smaller practices. The NHS's GP Five Year Forward View set out funding streams and projects that were designed specifically and explicitly for larger scale practices or groups of practices rather than smaller individual ones like ours, so with a combined registered list size of approximately 9,000 we hope to achieve this.
"We embrace the concept of working together to help each other and provide greater access to our patients and pooling resources will enable us to offer a wider range of services working across the two sites. We aim to work smarter and more efficiently to encourage our businesses to grow and are looking at new ways of working with other health care professionals to provide a much more rounded patient experience.
"The plan is to merge our businesses by April 2018 and our IT systems and patient lists by August 2018, to work as one practice by then. We will remain working across the two sites to give our patients choice on where they attend but we hope that they will see a positive difference and a cohesive, united service no matter who they see and where."
Carcroft and Princess
A spokesman for Carcroft Doctors Group said they and Princess Medical Centre shared mutual values and core beliefs - to provide their patients with a high quality service, in a warm and
The practice say they strongly believe working together is the right thing to do and will enable them to:
* Ensure stability of both Practices
* Improve access to doctors and nurses
* Increase the services to our patients both now and in the future
* Ensure we attract high quality doctors and nurses into the future
* Provide more training opportunities for new doctors coming into general practice and more training and development for our current staff
Sue Bushell, business manager at Carcroft Doctors Group, said: “The doctors, nurses and staff at both surgeries are committed to making a merger work for the benefit of our patients. We want to maintain high quality of care and build on this to ensure we are able to meet any challenges that arise in the future.
“However, we do recognise that it is important to ask our patients to support for these proposals before moving ahead. There are two patient engagement days arranged – Tuesday 31 st October 2017, 6.15pm at Carcroft Doctors Group and Wednesday November 8 , 6.15pm at Princess Medical Centre – where we will be outlining why we feel this is the right approach for both practices. Patients can attend either date. “
Pheonix and Flying Scotsman
Dr Mohammed Khan, of the Phoenix Practice near South Parade in the town centre, plans to close his current premises and move in to a merged practice with the Flying Scotsman Centre. He has 1,900 patients.
He has the backing of the Patient Participation Groups at both practices
He said: "At the moment, the NHS is under a lot of pressure due to demand that has increased. We have to look very closely at how money is spent.
"Gone are the days we had small family GPs practices people always went to. There will be large GP practices where people consult with the GP who is available. Small practices are being squeezed so much it is virtually financially unviable to have a solo GP practice like mine.
"I've looked at all the options in how to maintain good services and spoken to neighbouring practices.
"I've had an association with the Flying Scotsman centre since its inception. I've done GP sessions there and mentored its doctors. It has grown very rapidly because it provides a unique 8am to 8pm, seven days a week service. It ticks a lot of boxes.
"I'm used to working with the staff there and my patients will have access to more services and longer hours.
"It makes sense to shut this site at Cavendish Court . We need to share workforce and share buildings on one site. Also, the Flying Scotsman Centre is very close geographically, having been put where it was because it was a good transport hub.
"I would be leading the clinical team and would still have an overview of my patients. The Flying Scotsman Centre has a track record of providing good services.
"For the merger to happen, the CCG would have to be willing to approve it. But if I don't do something like this I will have to resign as I can't afford to run this facility on the budget I have.
"I acknowledge funds are limited and I have to make the best use of them. I think this is the best way to do it."
Ray Guffick, a representative of the Phoenix Medical Participation Group backed the plan.
He said: "Phoenix may be a small practice but it's one of the best. We as patients don't want to phone up and see in two weeks time, not knowing who we will see. If we're moving to the Flying Scotsman like this with Dr Khan's hand still on the tiller then I'm confident it will still be a good service. If Dr Khan resigned, his patient list would be dispersed and we don't know where we would end up."