TAXPAYERS are expected to pick up the tab as NHS chiefs parachute in experienced GPs to support doctors’ practices until recently overseen by trouble-hit firm IMH.

The Adver understands four GP “supporters” will start working with the five Swindon practices from Monday, along with two experienced practice managers.

The experienced doctors are part of a scheme run by the Wessex Local Medical Committee, a body that represents and supports GPs and practices across the region.

Swindon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees primary care in the town, refused to say how much the new GP supporters were costing the NHS.

A CCG spokesman said: “While practices in need of support are - in some circumstances - eligible to apply for resilience funding to cover the costs of additional help, the CCG has agreed to partially fund this work with the LMC so that GP supporters can be brought in as quickly as possible and to ensure that normal service at the five practices involved with the IMH Group is maintained.

“As the commissioners of primary care, it is always our priority to ensure that local services are able to meet the needs of local people and, whenever a situation arises in which services are unable to do this, the CCG will, of course, do whatever is necessary to ensure patients are not disadvantaged and that their health and wellbeing is never compromised.”

A fortnight ago, it was announced that IMH would be pulling out of Swindon, after both the CCG and the Care Quality Commission raised concerns about leadership and other issues – including lengthy telephone waits for patients trying to book GP appointments.

Yesterday, a fuming Kate Linnegar, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for North Swindon, said it was unfair IMH were not picking up the tab: “There’s no way the CCG and taxpayers should be paying for IMH’s mistakes.

“If the CCG is paying, somebody should be held responsible within the CCG. It shouldn’t be the taxpayer having to pay out.”

In a letter to patients this week, the CCG said: "The way in which primary care is delivered in the 21st century – with demand for appointments continually increasing and practices providing more complex services – means that doctors and other healthcare professionals need as much time as possible for their patients.

"Working-at-scale and sharing non-clinical activity, such as administration, finance and IT support, not only provides GPs and other practice staff with more capacity for patients, but also allows practices to be more efficient."

Justin Tomlinson, North Swindon MP, said: “I am continuing to work closely with the CCG as they rightly lead on securing the much needed improvements. I am greatly encouraged at the speed with which the CCG is taking action and they have my full support as explore all options to secure a sustainable, local level of support.”