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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Practice hands back contract due to recruitment crisis

Partners at a practice in Bristol have been forced to hand their contracts back to NHS England as a result of the recruitment crisis that has engulfed general practice.

The St Martin’s Surgery in Knowles may have to close unless NHS England can find an alternative provider to the current partners, Dr Holly Hardy and Dr Karen Houghton, after they made the ‘horrible decision’ to resign their contract.

This comes after a Pulse survey of 25 local GP leaders revealed that over 60 practices face imminent closure due to issues over funding and recruiting staff.

The problems began when the surgery’s two full-time senior partners retired in 2012 and 2013, and a subsequent recruitment drive attracted only two applicants - one of whom turned down a job offer, and another who left after only 18 months in post.

Dr Hardy told Pulse that plans for a merger with a nearby larger practice fell through after three months of planning, and subsequent efforts to bring in help from five other local practices were abandoned, again due to a lack of resourcing. 

Patients have been sent letters informing them of the situation, and NHS England said it will contact them again once a solution has been reached. In the meantime, many patients have contacted Dr Hardy offering to help.

Dr Hardy said: ‘They’ve been lovely, asking after the staff and asking if they can sign a petition to help us. It’s very touching, and we’ll take whatever support we can get.

‘But the bigger question is, where are the doctors? It’s clear this is a national problem.

We’ve got more work coming out of secondary care into primary care, but the money’s not coming with it. GPs are overworked, there’s a retirement bulge coming, and we’re lacking in recruits.’

The pair now face a summer of running the surgery singlehanded due to a shortage of holiday locum cover.

She told Pulse: ‘We’ve had to have redundancy conversations with our staff, some of whom have been working here for 30 years. It’s very upsetting for them, but they want to keep going to the end.’

NHS England have put out for expressions of interest across north Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with a closing date of 1 July.

If another organisation does not take over the practice by the end of the doctors’ six week notice period, it will close and its list of 6,000 patients will be dispersed to other surgeries.

Image credit: Jaggery - Photo is copyrighted but also licensed for further reuse.

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Readers' comments (16)

  • My heart goes out to them and I wish them the best of luck. Brave decision and I am sure better for their physical and mental health.
    However, what happens if the surrounding practices do not have the capacity to take those patients allocated to them?

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  • Vinci Ho

    If anyone in NHSE still has a bit of conscience left, help these practices to force the pressure back to politicians.
    As I said in the other article , can you still recognise yourself when you look at your mirror today???

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  • John Glasspool

    But there IS no crisis in British General Practice, is there Mr Hunt?

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  • I hope the other local surgeries start saying no to the influx of new patients otherwise NHS england will assume there is no problem

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  • Its shocking !
    very curious to know why none of all the newly qualified GPs not keen to work at this practice, do they not feel prepared to work in a inner city practice ? if so how does it reflect on GP training programme ?

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  • @8:11 - I do not think you can blame new GPs for not becoming a partner in this practice. It is so desperately unstable that they risk joining then being forced to cough up for redundancy payments in the near future.

    Add this to the ongoing supply of locum positions and it makes becoming a partner just a bad idea.

    Unfortunately that is the case in a lot of practices. It promotes people to jump ship early and leaves a big pile of malaena for those that remain.

    DOI: fairly new GP who is in fact a partner - and enjoying it.

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  • Dr David Geddes: ‘It’s not about saving practices, but ensuring good patient care’

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  • Insist that the take home pay for each consultation, after taxes , go back up to £8 from the current £4

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  • This very sad situation will test the market. Will a private provider come in and pick up the contract, or will they negotiate a new (profitable) contract with NHSE. I would like to see the surrounding practices refuse to take the dispersed patients (close their lists) by way of protest. In fact perhaps all GPs in England should adopt that tactic in order to force some action out of the government.

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  • I had a quote for locums at £100+VAT per hr. I'd love to see HMG look at £20/consult for GP services. No wonder we can't recruit.

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