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A faulty production line

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

2013

11

29,075

9

14,574

20

43,649

2014

30

64,241

21

73,570

51

137,811

2015

31

63,930

41

142,339

72

206,269

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)

  • "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 too...in 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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