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At the heart of general practice since 1960

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)

  • 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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