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GPs buried under trusts' workload dump

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)

  • yet the GPC's silence is booming across the land.

    It's time to abandon this long obsolete cult religion of the free NHS. Una is right, the money simply doesn't exist so keeping begging govt for it is blind stupidity. Patients need to pay for use of the system like they do in every other civilised country. Stop this Soviet Union adherence to a "free" model that does not work.

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  • Una, whilst I normally enjoy your fiery version of what the GPC should be doing, some of what you says is complete and utter garbage.

    Firstly you eschew the idea that the govt has no more money, so that privitisation should come in to the fore. Then you go and spread the idea that GPs should be lobbying the govt for more money.

    I'm sorry but you are wrong. If the govt can increase MP pay by 11%, manager pay by 6.1%, bail out RBS, build a £60 billion railway track, then it sure as hell can pay for understaffed and wavering doctors and nurses on the frontline.

    Then you perpetually fabricate a conspiracy theory about IMGs despite the high court ruling, AND continue to do huge damage to the reputation of the profession. You are doing damage by saying that it is okay for sub standard trainees to challenge the college because of their skin colour. You are in effect saying, screw the CSA, just let anyone through as a GP. Considering there is no decent alternative, I'm sorry to say, but that is a dangerous idea, and will damage the profession even more in the long run when substandard GPs give more credence to Daily Fail propaganda.

    The IMG issue is not even on debate here, which further shows your lack of clarity on the issue at hand and shows your desire to spin your issues to the fore - something that Cameron, Blair and the rest of them do particularly well.

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  • The governments answers to please for help, saying there are not enough GPs and practices are struggling? - we are sorting out extending GP hours and longer working/24 hour access/7 day appointment.
    The NHS constituion - gives patients the right to demand and get a referral to any specialty.
    The simple answer is to stop worrying about the funding of the whole NHS and the lack resources( if the government and people don't care- why should we) and refer anyone who wants or might need to see a specialist, admit every 50:50 clinical dilemma rather than waiting and watching, prescribe branded medication rather than generic, and stop being so good at what you do. More 2ww wait referral to keep Mr. Hunt and the pathologists happy. Generally swamp the system until it is clogged up from all sides, and when they come back for our help to sort the problem out- do some proper demanding rather than negotiating. But sadly the BMA and the many GP's will never have the guts to stand up and do any of this.

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  • The amount of GP bashing that is going on, I am surprised all GP's haven't resigned!
    My GP works 60 + hours per week but still NHSE think it is important that ticking little boxes is more important than seeing patients.

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  • Follow 'Save Our Surgeries' campaign on FB and twitter. Before, patients have had to fight for hospitals . Tomorrow is historic as for the first time ever we march for General Practice- the jewel in the crown of the NHS. Join us, Maureen Baker, MPs, Allyson Pollock and the people of a Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Bring your family, stand up and be proud to be a GP . It's up to us to fight back. Patients need to realise we are under threat! Don't be weighed down by cynicism - the enemy of action! Altab Ali Park Aldgate East 2pm or London Fields lido 3.45. Come and make history!!! Naomi Beer and SOS team

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  • Ps Press in abundance BBC ITV MIrror all filming. It will be better than Wimbledon!!

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  • Una Coales

    @12:19 easy to mudsling from anonymity? Who are you may I ask?

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  • Una Coales

    Well done Dr Naomi Beer for taking action. I wish the BMA had organised this march for its GP members or balloted its GP members as to what they wanted its trade union to do to save general practice as asking for more money has not worked.

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  • Una, why dont you answer the points on debate than worry about my identity?

    There is no mudslinging. Just holes in your argument.

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  • Una Coales

    @11:39 everything you have stated is false and has to be corrected which makes me wonder if you are a BMA or RCGP rep?

    The RCGP and BMA are lobbying for more money in spite of a £20 billion Nicolson challenge NHS efficiency savings. I am saying it is pointless to ask for more money when the nation is £1.4 trillion in debt. I am against HMOs and pro semiprivate GPs who may charge patients and also treat state medicare/medicaid patients reimbursed by the government. Semiprivate GPs will set fair market prices for healthcare but HMOs will seek profits over patients and have huge overheads.

    There is a reason 451 GP training places are vacant. There is a reason only approx 124 Indian doctors have been registered by the GMC this year. There is a reason why an Indian Cambridge grad faces difficulty passing a subjective CSA exam using actors and not real patients. I do not have to join up the dots for you.

    There is a reason why the BMA is not balloting its members for a strike or action against this untenable NHS GP contract. Government has protected senior GPs pensions for the next decade. IMO the two are linked.

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