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Practice closures 'not always a problem', NHS England says

Exclusive Practices ‘close all the time’ and it ‘should not be assumed’ it is a problem, NHS England has said in response to Pulse’s investigation that found almost 100 practices have contacted their LMCs in England about potentially closing,

Pulse revealed this week that at least 109 practices in the UKincluding 91 in England – have already approached their LMCs about potentially closing as a result of funding and recruitment pressures.

But NHS England said that closures happen ‘all the time’ and they should be seen ‘in the context of local provision’.

GP leaders said that this showed a ‘worrying level of complacency’ from NHS England.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘Practices close (and open) all the time and it should not be assumed that this is a problem or a reduction of service; it needs to be seen in the context of local provision.’

‘Examples of closures might include: closure of surgery or premises in order to move to a different, newer or shared facility; practice mergers to provide a broader range of services for a greater cohort of patients; death of a single handed practitioner.’

But Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of GPC, said that this response failed to appreciate the problems faced by general practice.

He said: ‘The Pulse survey is further very worrying evidence of the growing crisis facing general practice and which is increasingly impacting on patients. It is not only a disaster for the practices concerned but there is a serious domino effect for surrounding practices who suddenly have to pick up large numbers of extra patients.’

‘The response from NHS England shows a worrying level of complacency. There is no doubt that general practice is in the midst of a serious crisis and this is having a real impact on patient services. This is a crisis that requires the Government and NHS England to no longer make excuses but to take urgent action to address and they must start listening to our “Your GP cares” campaign and responding to it.’

Local leaders have warned that the crisis is the ‘worst seen in 20 years’, and that it could get worse following poor GP training intake figures in August.  

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, chair of Devon LMC, said: ‘I’ve been involved with the LMC for 20 years and I’ve never seen this before. For this to start happening now is significant.’

In Wales, where 14 practices have either handed in their contracts or have considered closing, the Welsh Government is looking at ways of solving the recruitment crisis.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We recognise there are concerns about GP recruitment and retention in parts of Wales. Where there are recruitment issues which need to be addressed, the Welsh Government is working in collaboration with the Royal College of GPs, the Wales Deanery, GPC Wales and health boards to promote Wales as an attractive place to live and work.’

‘These include developing new training and recruitment schemes for GPs, considering different contractor models, and looking at how the skills of the whole primary care team can be better used including practices working together locally to help meet the needs of their populations.’

In Scotland, where three practices are at risk because of issues over dispensing, the devolved administration has attempted to tackle this head on.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: ‘The Scottish Government carried out a full review around access to prescribing and dispensing medicines for communities in rural and remote areas and the impact a new pharmacy might have on their local GP services. The responses to that consultation have been independently analysed and showed broad support for our proposals - the amended regulations build on those proposals.’

‘The new arrangements which came in to last month, are intended to promote stability of GP and pharmaceutical services in rural areas, whilst also ensuring local communities across Scotland have adequate access to a qualified pharmacist.’

Readers' comments (31)

  • "should be seen ‘in the context of local provision"

    Local provision is almost universally at crisis point in every locality. I think in the past 3 years I have met one GP who has actually been looking for more patients.

    Does that mean that NHSE agree that every closure is an absolute catastrophe?

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  • NHS England are incompetent a*******s promoted beyond their ability who could not care less about medical primary care but they are only carrying out the evil Hunt's mission

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  • In response to both NHSE + Liz closure means closure - if LMCs were talking about mergers or other option these woluld be called exactly that, not closure. We are dealing with people handing in their contracts and potential domino collapse of neighbouring practices and all NHSE can do is play games with semantics.

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  • 'No pit closures'. Remember that slogan from the miners' strike

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  • Either we are overpaid in market terms and therefore this is the market. I have just returned from the USA where medical care is a nightmare with the threat of bankruptcy if you fall ill.
    Here take home pay of £3 per consult is unlikely to be matched by any private provider and Private companies taking over the NHS is going to hugely expensive for the patient. We will, I predict, get EWTD protection and all other employee rights.
    But, anyway, we as a profession cannot be dictated to NHSE in this arrogant manner. Come on GPC, is it not time to ballot for mass resignation.? How come GPC seems so unconcerned, so inept when 100+ practices are closing on its watch?

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  • I've had a Commissioner repeat three times; 'I don't have to listen to people'. 'I don't care what people say' - and this was a reponse to a Consultation which had been done asking patients whether their Practice should be closed. The overwhelming reponse was - the Practice should not close.
    The irony was that the Commissioners had spent thousands on doing a survey and when the reponse came contrary to their expectations - I don't care what people say.
    This is NHSE - find out the backgrounds of people employed in NHSE, their private and political associations with Providers, parties and the Trusts, and you will find a pattern of abominable roots sucking away the life from our NHS.

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  • It will matter when all GP`s send a letter to NHSE stating they are considering closing their practice 1 month BEFORE the election.

    We want mass balloting now.

    The will be on their knees.

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  • GPs and your union haven't got the moral courage to stand up for yourselves, you will cave in.

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  • Actually NHS England wanted practices to close so that they can hand over contracts to their pauls (Private companies) In our area all the new contracts have gone to private companies none to GP/ or Group of GP's

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  • Can NHS England define "all the time". How many practices have closed in the last 12 months?

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