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More than 160,000 patients displaced by practice closures

Exclusive More than 160,000 patients across the UK have had to register with another practice as a result of their practice closing over the past two years, show figures obtained by Pulse.

The figures show over 60 GP practices across the UK have been forced to close since April 2013 and, as a result, thousands of patients have been displaced.

The data - obtained from NHS England and health boards in Scotland and Wales under the Freedom of Information Act - are the first to show the distressing consequences of rising numbers of GP practices going to the wall.

GP leaders said this is not only bad for patients, but also piles the pressure on neighbouring practices, which are often forced to take on additional patients.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said he believed the figures obtained by Pulse are the ‘tip of a much bigger iceberg’.

He said: ‘There are many practices on the brink of collapse, while others are significantly reducing the level of services they can offer.’

He added: ‘There needs to be a national, proactive approach to support general practice to pre-empt and prevent this sort of issue occurring. Far too often it is a case of trying to make amends after the event.’

The closures are having a dramatic impact in some areas. In the Midlands, seven GP practices closed between April 2013 to April 2015, displacing 27,000 patients. Birmingham LMC executive secretary Dr Robert Morley said the situation was ‘absolutely dire and getting rapidly worse’.

He adds: ‘We have small partnerships that are becoming unviable because of issues of recruitment, retention, impossible workload, GP illness and singlehanders retiring, and practices are also being closed by the CQC.’

London has seen some 52,000 patients displaced after 22 closures – all but one of which involved GMS or PMS practices.

Dr Tony Grewal, medical secretary of Londonwide LMCs, says the closures put significant pressure onto neighbouring practices, which often have little choice but to take on the patients who have been left without a GP.

He says: ‘Surrounding practices may have to deal with several hundreds of new patients in a short space of time [and] it is recognised that the first year of registration with a new practice requires considerable extra work.’

Only a few areas of the UK have avoided major closures, but local GP leaders are warning that it is only a matter of time before more practices succumb. In the South-West of England, only one small practice has had to close, but Devon LMC medical secretary Dr Mark Sanford Wood says: ‘We have been relatively spared so far. The omens for the next 12 months are not good, though.’


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Readers' comments (20)

  • Took Early Retirement

    Good News! And I gather that the shortage of GPs is on the front page of the Independent today, though haven't read it yet.

    However, this is only going to be REAL news when patients can't find another GP at all, and nothing will be done about it until either patients in Islington or the nice places in Surrey find they can't get a GP. The latter may take some time. The former maybe a little less.

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  • "GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said
    ‘There needs to be a national, proactive approach to support general practice to pre-empt and prevent this sort of issue occurring. Far too often it is a case of trying to make amends after the event.’"

    Ooh that told the Government Chaand. The government and NHSE can't believe their luck that the GPC is so wishy washy and supine.

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  • NHS England will come out with the "Some practices close, some practices merge, etc" soundbite that they always trot out. Meanwhile, Rome burns...

    As J Glasspool eludes to, nothing will happen until enough patients are so inconvenienced that HMG has to take notice. The sooner that this happens, the better.

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  • And after all this NHS England still doesn't want to allow / give permission to young GPs to open their own surgeries.

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  • We should not be surprised. Unfotunately we are on a path to a salaried corporately run service. Makes sense to consolidate to larger Practices which have survived market forces and are ripe for a more efficient takeover. What is sad is the way we are stumbling towards it. Why don't we have some sort of organisation to coordinate it ,a PCT for instance.

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  • Perhaps we should reflect on why some practices have become unviable and whether single handed practices are capable anymore of running to clinical and organisational standards and should merge with larger sister practices

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  • @10.31. you are assuming that all these closures are single handed practices. There are multiple reasons that many practices are struggling financially such as MPIG, PMS reviews, unable to recruit new GPs leading to over reliance on locums, cash flow issues with payments not being in good time. These can hit small, medium and large practices and it is not necessarily down to poor clinical care that a practice stumbles

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  • It is not just small practices that are affected. There is a practice in Essex with a list size of 16,000 patients that has closed today. Shortage of GP's and spiralling locum costs (and associated pensions) that makes it difficult for any practice to continue once a significant portion of your GP work force leaves

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  • @Dr Rowland- That was a nostalgic comment about ...' a PCT for instance.' I recall GPs moaning about the PCT but the fact remains, we still did have a say in matters and the interference from government was at acceptable levels.
    With the reorganisation, it is pure mayhem so indeed- there is nobody to coordinate but mainly because there is no clear direction visible.

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  • Everything in this article is correct, particularly around the impact on surrounding practices, but at least 10% will be ghost patients that will never need to register elsewhere.

    Before the usual Pulse comment vitriol starts that's not meant as a criticism of practices, but it is a widely known fact for practice closures.

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