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Revealed: Sixty GP practices across the country facing imminent closure

Exclusive Around 60 practices across the UK are facing imminent closure due to issues over funding and recruiting staff, Pulse has learnt.

In a measure of the recruitment crisis and funding squeeze facing the profession, local GP leaders have warned that they are witnessing an increase in the number of practices considering giving up their contracts altogether.

Pulse surveyed 25 local GP leaders from across the UK, and found that 60 practices were either notifying their patients about their closure or were in talks about relinquishing their contract.

The leaders of local medical committees (LMCs) or GPC representatives told Pulse that they fighting to keep practices open, but were facing a ‘slow train crash’.

They also cited the ‘domino effect’ that would occur if practices were allowed to close and large numbers of patients had to be reallocated to other neighbouring practices.

The BMA warned in May that practices were ‘imploding’ with the pressure on them, and that was leading to many being at risk of closure.

The survey found:

  • In Gloucestershire, three practices are under imminent threat of closure with GPs at one taking home no pay at all.
  • Six practices in Hampshire have been in discussions with LMC representatives about relinquishing their contracts.
  • One practice in Oxfordshire has closed this week because it could not afford the running costs, another is due to close due to a lack of investment in premises.
  • In Wales, four practices are closing imminently, and a further 10 are considering doing so due to recruitment problems.

Gloucestershire  LMC chair Dr Philip Fielding said: ‘We’re working with the area team and CCG to find a way of keeping them viable, and also to keep planning succession.

‘In one practice, the partners are taking no drawings. They are retired in terms of the NHS pensions, but they’re staying on for nothing to look for a successor. In another practice, the salaried doctors are earning more than the partner. It’s inherently unstable - it’s like trying to stop a slow train crash.’

Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of Wales GPC, said: ‘We have a number of surgeries in Wales that are in the process of terminating their contracts. There are examples in both urban areas and rural areas - one in Neath Port Talbot, one is Powys. One example is Dr Julie Lethbridge and Partners in Neath. It comes down to their inability to recruit partners - and remaining partners can’t cope. Even the good ones have difficulty recruiting, and it causes a domino effect.’

In Essex, there are similar problems with recruitment. Dr Brian Balmer, chair of Essex LMC, said that there were two that were under threat. He said: ‘It’s because they can’t recruit. The key reasons so far are the changes in finance and that people are leaving for various reasons - retirement etc. - and they can’t recruit.’

In Oxfordshire, NHS England has said it is closing the Wootton Surgery on 31 August because its premises was not fit for purpose. It said:  ‘The surgery, which only opened for five hours per week, would have needed considerable investment to bring it up to the standards required by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).’

Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said there were two practices that had closed in his region. He added: ‘We’re going to see more and more of this. The only way to safeguard the profession and safeguard these practices is for partners to merge.’

Last year, an FOI request by Pulse revealed that 99 practices had closed between 2010 and 2013.

Readers' comments (61)

  • ‘The only way to safeguard the profession and safeguard these practices is for partners to merge.’
    I wish.
    While considering the possibility of merging our own practice, but deciding to quit instead, I put the following poser to my 19 year old son:
    ‘If you mix one steaming pile of s**t, with another steaming pile of s**t, what do you get? The answer, ‘An even larger steaming pile of s**t’, was plainly obvious to him, as it should be to us all.

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  • Sadly I had to go with market forces 2 months ago and retired at age 59 partly due to health factors. My pension is now well above what my recent drawings were. I am sure these same "market forces" will influence many GPs in their 50's adding to the oncoming implosion of general practice.

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  • Sir Richard n his pals are salivating at the whitehall streets which are paved in gold

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  • Una Coales

    The reality is, for countries to get out of a national debt of £1.4 trillion, it means privatising public services, ie privatise the railway, privatise post offices, privatise universities and now privatise the health care service. Government cannot keep publicly funding a £110 billion a year free health service in which public demand outstrips resources and manpower in the context of trying to keep Great Britain from bankruptcy.

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  • The problem is the private providers need to make a profit after paying their overheads and I cannot see how they can do this with the present funding arrangements. No doubt some will be happy to run at a loss for a while in the hope that insurance models are introduced. It may be possible to make 'efficiencies' by putting huge numbers of non clinical staff on the minimum wage and zero hours contracts, managing appointments from call centres and increasing the use of 'practitioners' but I'm not sure it will wash with the public who will still demand to be seen by a GP. The implications for secondary care costs in such a model are staggering.

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  • well done coalition..criminal damage you are doing to the nhs will lead to your demise

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  • @ 03 July 2014 11:10pm

    The public can demand what they like - once privatised, the old, sick and poor will be priced out of the market just like in the US and worldwide.

    They will be desperate and see even the local Witch Doctor when unwell - as they could never afford a Private GP.

    Once the dam collapses, it needs complete rebuilding at huge cost.

    Vote conservative and the NHS will be gone, vote labour and they were the ones who set the privatisation rolling - with Blair and his Private mates.

    All politicians ( Possible few exceptions - but none who are close to influence and control) are money grabbing t@ss@rs, and are in the back pocket of lobbyists and Private companies, if not on the boards already, will be on promises when voted out of office.

    Unless the public wake up soon to this - it will all be gone and too late to turn back the clock.

    BMA please stop negotiating, and start demanding change.

    Doctors - stop whining and support the BMA as they are powerless if they try and Strike - and the sheep among us decide to go to work as usual - so the 'Jubilee long w/end' had more impact on services than our so called strike.

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  • Una Coales

    CSA broke IMG GP trainee recruits. BAPIO stood up to the RCGP. The financially unfeasible NHS GP contract is breaking UK GP partners. When will BMA its trade union demand industrial action and stand up to government for a fair contract, fair working conditions and fair pay? Is it so much to ask? Why was a small agenda committee allowed to refuse my emergency motion calling for the BMA to consider a ballot for industrial action, for GPs to be allowed to increase practice income through private means by more than 10% as dentists do, for the BMA private practitioners committee to help NHS GPs source income? Why did this agenda committee think a debate on a BMA bear toy should take precedence?

    In the eyes of many grassroots GPs, it would appear the BMA couldn't care less. Government is protecting the lucrative NHS pensions of older GPs for the next 10 years. Is this not the same as accepting gag money? Don't strike on behalf of younger GPs who are working their socks off, burning out, committing suicide, quitting, emigrating, falling off their stools from exhaustion working 12 hour days, as the production line has been doubled and the speed increased. Why watch stools become vacant, one by one, as workers disappear? Who would want to join this assembly line?

    Why not increase the price of the product? Make consumers pay more for a product that has been priced too cheaply for 2014? Workers with 11 years med school and working experience cannot be expected to work this hard for pay less than a plumber.

    In 2009 I warned the RCGP not to be seen unwittingly colluding with government and bringing about the demise of general practice. Unfortunately the CSA exam has ensured that British BMEs and IMGs avoid general practice training like the plague.

    I also advised in 2012 that the BMA, RCGP, MWF, etc. should unite to protect general practice. They can only do this if they valued all GPs, IMGs and BMEs. And if they also valued white UK GP partners, they would demand industrial action and the means to survive like dentists and semiprivate GPs in Australia. Instead we will see the US health maintenance org model which was deemed as unsatisfactory by many Americans who then opted out.

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  • Una Coales The domino effect starts in September...

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