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Independents' Day

200,000 patients displaced after rapid rise in GP surgery closures last year

Exclusive The number of patients being displaced by surgery closures has risen by 50% in a year, with 200,000 patients in 2015 forced to register with a new GP or travel further to see their existing GP.

The shocking figures reveal a growing crisis in the provision of general practice, with the number of practices either closing altogether or shutting down branch surgeries rising by 40%.

The investigation by Pulse reveals that 31 GP practices in England closed and 41 branch surgeries were closed as a result of a merger in 2015. Collectively, these premises served 206,269 patients. This compares with 43,000 patients experiencing similar problems in 2013.

The figures come days before GP leaders debate emergency measures to ensure the future of general practice, including mass resignation.

The conference comes after NHS bosses have ignored warnings for months about the sustainability of general practice in many areas. The NHS has only just instructed all areas to come up with a plan to shore up general practice, with a £10m pilot to be launched later this year to help vulnerable practices. A ‘new deal’ for practices offered by the health secretary Jeremy Hunt last year has failed to address the problem.

Practices cite rising workload, funding cuts and a severe shortage of GPs as the reason why they have had to close surgeries. Pulse revealed last year a massive rise in vacant GP partner posts.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It’s becoming increasingly difficult for small practices to cope with rising levels of bureaucracy and manage their workload. Often they work in inner-city areas serving deprived communities, which can be really quite challenging. They haven’t had the investment in premises and other types of development, so it’s very difficult to attract new GPs to go in there and work alongside them.’

Londonwide LMC’s medical director Dr Tony Grewal said: ‘Even where a practice has had problems and all are agreed something needs to be done, the level of support available from NHS England, and cash-strapped CCGs, is at best variable.’

Dr Robert Mockett closed his practice in Brighton last year and became a prison doctor. He told Pulse: ‘We were doing 10 sessions a week and had locums in. If we could have afforded to take someone else on then we could have kept it going but no one wants to be a GP any more. It got down to the point where it was get out or go bust – it was better to walk away.’

Pulse has highlighted the increasing numbers of practices closing and their impact through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: ‘These figures represent less than 1% of the total number of GP practices in England. It has always been the case that a small number open, close, or merge over time. What’s important is that patients continue to get access to the services they need.’

What the results show

Pulse asked NHS England to give details of any practice closure or merger that resulted in the closure of premises.

 No. of practices closedPatients displaced as result of closureNo. of premises closed due to mergerPatients displaced as result of mergerTotal number of practices / premises closedTotal number of patients displaced






















Source: Freedom of Information request to NHS England, and Health and Social Care Information Centre figures on numbers of patients per practice. This is an underestimate as information regarding six practices was not provided in time for publication. 

Readers' comments (23)

  • The Stop Practice Closure Campaign might as well be called the Prolong the Misery Campaign. It might be a popular mantra amongst patients and cardigans and GP's in denial but so called leaders should be having a mature debate with GP's about the wisdom of this approach in the face of current workforce and financial challenges. I hope that the LMC conference might go some way towards this.Unfortunately, I suspect we will have to see GP's financially ruined before they accept the futility of struggling on.
    Start planning your exit strategy now.

    Ditch the contract comrades!

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  • I agree we need more practice closures not less, and then can ditch the contract and negotiat from a position of strength with NHSE. Anyone who says that this will lead to private providers taking over, well so be it .....

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  • The government have the opportunity to save general practice . Getting Facebook and google to pay their tax, for example, would provide the funds. They choose not to do so . We can infer from this choice that we are not valued . Resignation is an option but would play into their hands unless every GP did this at the same time . A mass walk -out from OOH for 1 month would be a good test bed . If this can be achieved then threaten resignation.

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  • Even Bill Bailey has had to change GPs according to the picture above.

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  • besides google tax, 2/3 rds of the NHS budget is spent on admin!! there is so much wastage on payouts to managers...why can't we cut down on that!!!

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  • Bob Hodges

    How many people live in Essex? Because that's the number of people that will be looking for a new GP by the summer from what I hear.

    If any journos want a scoop - investigate what's going on there. Essex is close enough to London for Westminster types to start squealing like pigs when the SHTF.

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  • Fear/greed drive a market. Fear of being the last GP standing will accelerate the closures. The cavalry are still not coming. Workload is going in only one direction - can you do any more hours? Federating/super-practising will exclude private providers for a while but there are still empty GP and nurse chairs. Mass resignation is happening but without any BMA/GPC steer as more and more GPs are waking up to the grim reality.

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  • Continued practice closure will lead to increased ED presentations...and there is no money being released for 'Mega-Surgeries to grow out of the ground' !

    The Plan is set for Privitisation by the DoH by starving out NHS England... and the CCG's will be given executive powers to expedite the process...SIMPLE( except for the fact that you have not figured it out yet) !

    Mass resignation...will just be a slight glitch in the system set to fail. GP's/Junior Doctors are banter fodder causing a little collateral damage, at most.

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  • Vinci Ho

    As I said NHS and hence GP land has become a dystopia.Putting aside the argument whether these surgeries should be saved right away , this is phenomenal as far as this dispicable government is concerned . For those playing the game of thrones in the opposition camps, it would be foolish not to exploit these figures and fire ten thousand arrows to the hearts of Cameron/Osbourne/Hunt.

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  • This government is decimating every publicly owned service. Basically, if a service doesn't generate GDP its resources will be cut.

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  • "besides google tax, 2/3 rds of the NHS budget is spent on admin!! there is so much wastage on payouts to managers...why can't we cut down on that!!!"

    I think you need to re-look at that. The Kings Fund estimate that the NHS spends about 8% on admin. Not quite 2/3rds is it?

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  • That's the Tories for ya! What a surprise!

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  • @ Sessional/Locum GP27 Jan 2016 11:59am

    the preceding labour government is equally to blame for this mess

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  • You reported a story of The Practice PLC handing back their contract in Brighton earlier this week.
    One of their practices with 4000 patients is approx half a mile from Dr Mockett's old practice.
    10000 patients in a very small patch of East Brighton possibly losing their GP within a couple of years.
    Never been a better time to be a GP!!

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  • I genuinely can see this getting worse year on year. The government doesn't seem to have any radical plans to save primary care as we know it because if it did it would have implemented them by now. The public are slowly being led by Lord Rothermere and the government to believe that free at the point of delivery health care is not sustainable and that co-payments are the only way forward. Primary care will continue to be starved of funds because competition rather than state provision is at the heart of current political orthodoxy. End of.

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  • The figures are dodgy.

    We have relocated over 2 miles in an urban area to near enough the border of our boundary, so our 3k patients count as "displaced?

    People fleeing war are displaced. Travelling past 6 other GP surgeries to see us is a lifestyle choice, which most of our registered patients decided to make.

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  • The UK is a festering pool of filth run by morons who's chief asset is their stupidity. This formula runs through all institutions especially healthcare. We know that this is reality and one only needs to look at some of the inept statements made recently by some of the so called "stars of the profession"

    There's no hope when the lunatics are in charge of the asylum and with an economy about to tank, a government with a mandate for perhaps another decade of ineptitude the future seems as bright as a bowl of bovine excrement.

    The UK is finished

    Ditch the country comrades!!!!!!

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  • "Anonymous | Other healthcare professional27 Jan 2016 10:01pm"

    I guess you've left the UK or are about which case spare us your point of view, it doesn't matter here anymore.

    If your country seems broke you need to try and fix it...not bugger off some other place to take advantage of someone else's better system...which you weren't part of creating.

    The world is awash with folk leaving broken systems rather than sticking round to sort them out...alas what can happen when you leave your own stinking system for someone else's is you take part of your 'I can't be arsed to fight to sort this out' attitude with you, and if enough of your kind follow your example the place your going to will end up the same as the place you left.

    Worth pondering on who ever you are 'the Uk is finished' ..pafff

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  • @10.34 Your comment reminds me of that Black Adder quote "A total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through."

    Ditch the contract comrades!!

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  • @10:34 your little prattle parallels the cardigan "it's never been a better time to be a GP" mantra. It's just a little further along the road to perdition hence the distinct lack of enthusiasm.

    I'm wondering if you are a secret cardigan peddling this patriotic piffle in an attempt to seduce this younger folk into remaining on board the sinking ship while you toodle along to the last remaining lifeboats..........

    Yes sir if that is indeed your wish then you are as cunning as a fox who's just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford.......

    Either way it's game over

    Ditch the country comrades!!!!

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  • Dear 10.34, I am so shocked by your comments! I have had a problem with revalidation, ie they dod not have a category to put me in so that was that for me!!!
    I have really tried to sort out the system and tried to get the BMA to help me but they were useless and the system spewed me out and I could not change it.

    I have since picked myself after having been effetively duffed up and kicked out for absolutely NO GOOD REASON WHATSOEVER as I have done nothing wrong at all!

    Perhaps my problem was founding a new field of medicine which did not have an existing category for me to register in.

    I am appalled that you suggest that people like me have no relevant opinions to offer with the current situation.

    I am certainly recommending others now to leave for New Zealand/Australia as at least there they are more likely to be treated with respect.

    Ditch the cntract/country/and do what you think works best for you all comrades!

    Please realise that everyone has a voice and needs somewhere to air it to help others.

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  • Other healthcare professional27 Jan 2016 10:01pm

    Where have you been the last 10 years. I have been in general practice for 30 years now and there has never been a time like this where the government is not listening to ground root GPs. I do not blame younger GPs leaving the system as we have been asking for change every year and it still remains the same. Do you have answers for this and can you solve the problems of no appointments overwork etc etc. Let me know if you have any ideas!

    I could go on and on replying to you. These younger doctors and their deserve better and I do not blame them for leaving.

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  • @Sunil Bhalla

    I presume you refer to 10:34 and not 10:01 as 10:34 was the writer suggesting GP's remain in the UK and try to fix the broken system;

    What we have seen in unprecedented in modern times as you point out;

    The things we are witnessing are not normal, although they have gone on for so long now that we have perhaps become desensitised towards them. We are seeing burnout on a mass scale, divorce/marital breakups are common (things I witnessed when I working), mental breakdowns due to vexatious complaints and careers destroyed, deaths of colleagues undergoing FTP panels, suicides, media denigration on an unprecedented scale so that health professionals have become so dehumanised it is normal to attack and abuse them, surgery closures, attacks from "our own" colleagues in collusion with other interest groups, massive funding cuts, an exodus of more senior colleagues leaving for early retirements, a dearth of applications for once popular VTS schemes, junior doctors striking for the first time in over 40 years, incessant increase in demand for our services with a commensurate decrease in funding as a proportion of the nhs budget............

    This is beyond a crisis......its worse than a catastrophe and posters like 10:34 instead of condemning those responsible seeks to shift the blame to those who have been scapegoated and abused for simply trying to do the job they were trained to do!

    There comes a point in ones life where enough is simply enough;

    Physicians need to take heed and heal themselves, because you can be sure from all of the above that no one else will...

    The above are all symptoms of a sick and diseased system and ultimately the society it allegedly serves...

    Anyone with half a brain cell, an ounce of common sense, can sense that the nadir is approaching..... can see 4 terrifying men on horseback approaching......

    The end is nigh! while you still have the shirt on your back brethren


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