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Over 750 practices across UK could close as GPs leave profession, warns RCGP

Over 750 practices could close within the next five years because they are relying on GPs approaching retirement, the RCGP has warned.

The college fears that this would have a ‘catastrophic impact’ on general practice and patient care, with more than 2.5m patients in England being forced to change practices if these closures occur.

The RCGP chair called for promises such as 5,000 extra GPs to be fulfilled, as well as an additional £2.5bn a year for GPs in the NHS long-term-plan.

The analysis, published by the college today, found that 762 practices across the UK are relying on a workforce where three-quarters of GPs are aged over 55 and therefore approaching retirement age.

This puts them at risk of closure as these GPs retire, if the practices cannot find suitable replacements.

Broken down by nation, this equates to 625 practices in England, 71 in Scotland, 37 in Wales and 29 in Northern Ireland.

The RCGP explained that in England alone, this would lead to 2.5 million patients needing to change practice, with the five worst-affected CCGs being Sandwell and West Birmingham (85,105 patients), Medway (52,330), Havering (49,761), Ealing (46,909) and Wigan Borough (43,640).

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Many GPs are bringing forward their retirement plans because the pressures they are working under are untenable.

‘It is a massive loss to the profession – and patients - to lose our most experienced doctors prematurely when they have huge amounts of knowledge and skill.’

Professor Stokes-Lampard said these potential practices closures would have a ‘catastrophic impact’ on the general practice and patient care. In response, GPs ‘urgently need to see existing promises of investment for general practice, 5,000 more GPs, and 5,000 more members of the wider practice team delivered’, with ‘equivalent promises’ in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

She added: ‘We also need to see an additional £2.5bn a year for general practice as part of the NHS long-term plan, to ensure that existing GPs and their teams are given the support and resources they need.’

The BMA said earlier this year that general practice was in 'critical condition' and that without an increase in Government funding, more than 600 GP practices will close in England.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Sad but I think this is a gross under estimates all those PFI GP sites leases come up for renewal no GP old or young will sign on the dotted line to continue to have that millstone around their necks, especially in a country that doesn't respect us for what we do.

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  • "General practices needs to set up like dentists"

    My sister is earning £50K only 2 years after graduating from dental school. Yet her conscious is still clear as the majority of her work is NHS.

    Try telling that to an F2 slaving away on a night shift.

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  • What options do we have as professionals?
    1. Work from home for one of the digital health providers- can anyone share their experience? less paperwork/patient contact??
    2. Leave the country- how’s the grass in Canada?
    3. Leave medical practice- how quickly can I retrain to a less stressful but similar/ better earning profession?
    Any other options worth considering?

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  • Yup. Go work for NHS England!!

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  • @NHS-GP Canada is your best bet. Australia is fast using up it's natural resources and so many doctors are going there already. What little Aussie land that is left is mostly dessert.

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  • Well done RCGP for your contribution to driving older GPs out, with your support for Appraisal and Revalidation.

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