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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Dr Holly Hardy: ‘We’ve exhausted all the options’

Dr Holly Hardy, a GP in Bristol, explains why her practice has had to hand their contract back to NHS England

We have had to resign our contract after both our senior partners took early retirement in the past two years, leaving me and a colleague as the sole remaining partners. We’ve been unable to replace them - the first person we recruited decided not to take the job, and the second left after 18 months.

The partners are only supposed to do six sessions between the two of us, but since January we’ve had to work the week. We use locums where we can, but our drawings have gone down to the extent where it’s costing us more for locums than it would for a partner.

We’ve had lots of good locums, but none of them want to take up permanent positions. One of the challenges is our premises - most new GPs prefer hospital-style surgeries, but we’re based in a Victorian house. It isn’t ideal, but we’re not in a position to move to purpose-built premises. We’ve exhausted all the options suggested by NHS England.

The initial plan was to look at a merger with another practice, but a large surgery nearby pulled out at the very last minute, citing recruitment as their worry. Then a group of five practices said they might be able to help by lending us a GP. But when it came down to it, they didn’t have the capacity themselves

Resigning was a horrible decision. We had to have redundancy conversations with our staff, some of whom have been working here for 30 years. It makes me feel like a failure. It’s eased a bit by lovely feedback from patients and staff, but it’s been difficult fitting in all the clinical work and trying not to cry.

Our notice period will be up in the middle of September. NHS England have had a number of expressions of interest, but if they can’t find anyone suitable by then the practice will close and our list of 6,000 patients will be dispersed. But I know we’re not the only ones in the area experiencing problems; if other practices can’t recruit either, they’ll be swamped.It’s a knock-on effect. 

The bigger question is, where are the doctors? It’s clear this is a national problem. We’ve got more work coming out of secondary care into primary care, but the money’s not coming with it. GPs are overworked, there’s a retirement bulge coming, and we’re lacking in recruits.

Dr Holly Hardy is a GP in Knowles, Bristol

Readers' comments (10)

  • Please don't feel disheartened. This is not your failure, it is a failure of successive health secretaries. The NHS is failing you and your patients not the other way round. My sincere sympathy that you have been put in this position.

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  • There will be many more.
    I empathise with your pain and frustration.
    Good luck to you.

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  • Russell Thorpe

    This is a damming inditement of Primary Care in 2014, the ultimate question though is will the 6K pts still vote Tory?

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  • This is a nightmare scenario - I have two partners due to retire next year so I've decided to jump ship now, I am moving to a new practice where I will be the next to retire as I do not want to face the same situation.

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  • John Glasspool

    Sad to hear it.

    Probably a local Trust will take over with salaried docs. This has happened to several practices in Southampton now. Solent Trust I think it is called. It was, years ago, the old community trust.

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  • It would be us too, but I think we have managed to save the practice by merging, so we can move out of our building, and use temporary accommodation while sorting out a long term solution.
    We have been fortunate, as long as it comes off.

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  • Why should these part time doctors end up paying the potentially huge cost of winding up the practice ?

    The practice failed because of the mendacious policies of successive governments. These doctors have worked their socks off and all their reward is the loss of their personal assets.

    We know that GP surgeries are not 'real' businesses. It suits the Government, but they have manipulated the health system so that GP surgeries cannot take obvious steps to keep their business viable because they are hamstrung by rules.

    There should be grants that can be awarded to defray the costs of winding up a surgery. This would help the current situation as partners would not rush to the exits prematurely,just to avoid being the last man standing. Young GPs might then join practices as partners.

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  • Pleas come to our practice: we have unfilled vacancies for a GP in our GMS, zero MPIG brand new "hospital type " surgery of only 5 wte partners. We are 1 hour from Bristol and property is cheap and the countryside is stunning. We are by comparison quite plain but very supportive! Your story is heartbreaking and we need committed GPs....

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  • GPs in this self defeating system where the regulariritory bodies seem to prly with false economy running NHS which impose immidiate cost saving sulphonuureas as second line antidiabetics,which result in massive costs to treatt hypos in secondary care can cause hypos below 2.2mmol which could result idn RTAs ad deaths.Our regularity body The GMC should not treat doctors as criiminalals proven guily until proved otherwise.THe Law I believe is innocent until proved otherwise

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  • I am a practice nurse in a relatively thriving practice of 16 000 patients, however despite this the GPs feel forced to merge with 4 other practices within a 5 mile radius giving a population of 50 000. Redundancy notifications, restructuring, no holiday cover, and trimming to the bone is leading to less time spent on patient care. Super partnership may reduce some management costs but achieving targets is another thing. Watch out A and E departments for an influx from those patients who cannot get an appointment. My local MP is going to get the full force of my frustrations when I see him next week.

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