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At the heart of general practice since 1960

'This is a genuine danger to patient safety'

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker on Pulse’s investigation into practice closures

A GP practice might close because surgeries are merging or forming a federation with other practices to pool their resources in the best interests of patient care – something that the RCGP supports.

But when this happens in some areas, particularly remote and rural areas, it can impact on our patients’ access to care, and every effort must be made to avoid this.

Decisions to merge practices are taken extremely seriously and the potential displacement of patients is a key consideration, even if the move is temporary. Wherever possible, efforts are made to ensure that patients are transferred to a practice nearby with minimal disruption.

Unfortunately, we currently have a severe shortage of GPs across the UK and some practices are being forced to close simply because there are not enough GPs to run them or because workload pressures mean that they can no longer guarantee safe patient care.

GPs and our teams are conducting in excess of 370 million patient consultations a year to keep up with the demand of our growing and ageing population, with many patients presenting with multiple, complex conditions. This is 60 million more consultations than five years ago, yet funding for general practice has declined dramatically in real terms over the past 10 years, and our workforce has remained relatively stagnant.

This is a genuine danger to patient safety – and to the wellbeing of hardworking family doctors and our teams.

The Government has spoken of a package of measures to address the growing pressures facing general practice. It is essential that this includes more investment in general practice, initiatives to ‘recruit retain and return’ thousands more GPs and practice staff, and measures to cut the unnecessary red tape that is taking family doctors away from frontline patient care.

Readers' comments (11)

  • There is not enough money. If there was more money those GPs who, at the margin, decide an extra session is not worth the hassle, stress or extra tax and indemnity, drop their sessions. This makes working intensity higher for those left - they then drop sessions.

    A healthy increase in funding would encourage some GPs to work more (or delay them dropping sessions)and new GPs would soon graduate from training schemes and be willing to work more sessions, as they would be less intense.

    In 2005 it rapidly many hospital SHOs started to move to general practice due to the relatively better conditions and autonomy at that time.

    Doctors can be quite flexible if the incentives are right.

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  • As a wise man once said: No money, no funny!

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  • Pay them and they will come.

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  • YES, I AM ONE OF THE DISPLACED,A RETIRED GP MYSELF. MY OLD SINGLE HANDED SURGERY WHERE I HAVE BEEN A PATIENT FOR MANY YEARS IS NOW CLOSED. I'VE REGISTERED WITH ANOTHER AND NOW HAVE TO RE-NEGOCIATE MY MEDICATION WITH A NEW GP

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  • Of course lack of money is a huge disincentive to work in primary care, but I think the major issue is the fact that the job is just hell. There is no enjoyment whatsoever in practising as a GP. Until that is addressed nothing will really improve. I dread going into work each day. It wasn't like this 30 years.

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  • And while higher incomes and more job satisfaction is still readily available elsewhere in the world......✈️

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  • Vinci Ho

    If you have the guts , MB, take your members onto the street and start protesting outside number 10 Downing Street, and launch a non-cooperation campaign.....

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  • I Support Vinic Ho Wisdom.
    Time to stand up and be counted.

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  • Red tape? MB Your college is a major part of the problem. 50 hours CPD and a pointless, process driven appraisal process which Shipman would have sailed through. That along with your ongoing collusion with the government to see GP practices to continue to struggle on with a toxic contract model in a moribund system. You and your mates need to cut the rhetoric and take responsibility for the mess we are in.
    I have a one point plan you may wish to adopt.

    Ditch the contract comrades!

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  • You and your college are the problem MB.

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