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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

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)

  • 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

    DITCH THE COUNTRY COMRADES!!!!!!

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