SWEEPING changes proposed to GP practices across Dorset could see reductions in the number of sites where primary care is provided.

The proposals have been outlined by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in its Primary Care Commissioning Strategy and Plan.

It could lead to the closure of a number of existing surgery buildings in Weymouth and west Dorset, although it has been stressed the practices themselves will continue to operate.

The document states that GP practices in their current form will not survive and a new way of operating is required in the future.

The proposal is for an 'integrated GP model', which would see practices working together as part of larger 'groupings'.

A series of 'local blueprints' have been set out with the number of sites where care is delivered from significantly reduced in each area.

The blueprint for Weymouth and Portland, which currently has eight GP practices across 12 locations, could potentially be delivered from three to six locations.

For the 'Mid Dorset' area, which includes Dorchester it envisions the services currently provided by eight GP practices across 11 sites being provided at four to six locations.

And for west Dorset the plan claims three to five locations could potentially deliver the services currently provided by seven practices.

Weymouth GP Dr Jon Orrell said he did not see that what was being proposed was an improvement to existing services. He suggested it was more of a result of lack of funding and problems with recruiting GPs that had forced the CCG to come up with the new model.

He said: "This is not a bold move into the future, what is happening is GP practices are being consistently starved of new money and doctors and some are going to be forced to close or merge because they are no longer viable.

"The big bold new vision is not having your own local practice and not having a GP you know, you are probably going to go to some more remote centre where you could see anyone and probably won't see an actual GP.

"Sometimes that's fine but it's not really what people thought they were getting."

Dr Orrell, a borough councillor, said that people with limited access to transport in rural areas were likely to feel the impact of the proposals most strongly.

He added: "All this stuff about care moving closer to home has been rather betrayed by the collapse of traditional practice and enforced mergers."

Bridport councillor and health campaigner Ros Kayes said she was calling for the matter to be referred to the Secretary of State for Health to ensure that the proposals are made subject to a full public consultation.

She said: "It is subterfuge of the highest order that these proposals, which will affect GP surgeries in every area of Dorset are not going to public consultation.

"The CCG are deliberately thwarting the process of public scrutiny."

Cllr Kayes said that there was currently "no clear process for involving the general public" in the process and even GPs themselves had been given less than a month to respond to the proposals, which she claimed will affect access to GP services for more than 60 per cent of Dorset residents.

A spokesman for the CCG said there were no plans to consult as there were no plans for close practices.

Head of Primary Care at NHS Dorset CCG Rob Payne said: "We want to be absolutely clear that we have no plans to close any practices and any claims that we do are inaccurate.

"We are in fact actively working across Dorset to support practices where they are facing the greatest pressures.

"Primary Care faces a number of challenges in the future, and if we continue as we are doing, our workforce and finances could soon become overstretched.

"The draft Primary Care Commissioning Strategy and Plan considers how services could be delivered differently to ensure they are safe and sustainable for the future; for example consolidation of sites or back office functions.

"This draft version of the strategy which is on our website has been circulated to key stakeholders to gain their views.

"Our ongoing strategy is to work with local groups of practices to help shape the way in which we will deliver services to meet future population needs. "This includes looking at how we would support new models of care.

"It is up to individual GP surgeries to decide whether to merge or not as they are independent contractors, we cannot force any change.

"We have been listening to the pressures that General Practice faces and it is clear that practices will have to work together and explore new ways of working and looking at transforming the way care is delivered if we want to ensure that services are sustainable in the future."