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Revealed: 450 GP surgeries have closed in the last five years

Exclusive Over a million patients have had to move surgeries in the last five years due to practice closures, a major Pulse investigation has revealed.

According to figures obtained by Pulse, 1.3m patients have seen their surgery closed as a result of practice closures or mergers.

In all, nearly 450 GP surgeries have closed during the time period.

This has accelerated in the past two years, with 450,000 patients being displaced in 2017 as a result of 134 surgeries closing.

Practices have closed due to problems with recruitment and funding, with some practices facing huge cuts due to Government reforms.

It has also come despite NHS England and devolved governments putting more money into saving vulnerable practices.

GP leaders said the figures ‘will resonate with the experience of GPs across the country’ and show ‘a serious failure of the system’.

The figures, which were obtained through freedom of information requests, show that in 2017 alone around 460,000 patients had to find a new surgery after 134 practices either closed or merged. In 2016, 136 surgeries closed their doors, leading to 400,000 patients being displaced.

This is compared with figures from 2013, when just 18 practices shut their doors, impacting only 37,000 patients.

The figures show a mix of practice closing and GPs having to close branch surgeries as a result of recruitment and financial problems.

Official figures released this month revealed that the GP workforce in England had reduced by 1,000 since September 2015 – when health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans to increase the workforce by 5,000 by 2020.

Furthermore, the most recent data could be an underestimate as – due to NHS England’s delegating commissioning of GP services – they are based on responses from CCGs, and some were unable to respond to the request.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘These new figures will resonate with the experience of GPs across the country as the recruitment and retention crisis in general practice is impacting practices of all sizes and all situations, as doctors face the pressures of rising workload, increasing administrative burden and a lack of resources.

‘Practices in rural and coastal regions, where the distance from large cities becomes a major obstacle in drawing in new recruits, have been particularly badly hit.’

He added that national initiatives to recruit GPs into these areas ‘will take some time before producing results’.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Sometimes, a closure is due to a practice merging, or becoming part of a federation, so that it can pool resources in the best interests of patient care.

But when it is because the practice team simply can’t cope with the resource and workforce pressures they are facing, it’s a serious failure of the system.’

She added that GPs handing back their contracts ‘is becoming increasingly common up and down the country, but particularly in rural and other ‘under-doctored’ areas where practices are finding it more difficult to recruit new GPs.’

Pulse has spoken to GPs in many of these areas, including Folkestone where GPs have said there is one GP for every 2,500 patients and Bridlington where withdrawn premises funding could be a 'death knell' for general practice in the area.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘More than 3,000 GP practices have received extra support thanks to a £27 million investment over the past two years and there are plans to help hundreds more this year.

‘NHS England is beginning to reverse historic underinvestment with an extra £2.4bn going into general practice each year by 2021, a 14% rise in real-terms.’

The Labour Party's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: 'Falling numbers of family doctors and ever more GP closures have forced 1.3mn patients to find a new surgery. This exposes the real crisis in primary care after eight years of grinding Tory austerity across the NHS.

'Labour has long called for primary care to be given greater priority and investment. A key test for Theresa May in the coming weeks will be whether or not she finally delivers the level of investment and support that primary care so obviously needs.'

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Readers' comments (14)

  • Took Early Retirement

    Brilliant news! When (if) it happens in the Tory heartlands maybe the national press/BBC/govt poodles will say something about it.
    Mind you, it is only when the punters can't get any surgery at all that they will really scream.

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  • The BBC will have a "news blackout" because Whitehall spinners will likely be "leaning on them" not to focus on the story. The "control freak" government are losing control and it is getting more and more difficult to keep "menacing" people to keep quiet.

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  • why are we NOT surprised??

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  • PS thanks Daily Nutter.....for ruining the lives of millions of UK Citizens and Daily Nutter readers with your childish, anti-GP crap and the consequences.

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  • Does no one see why there is a recruitment problem . The job has been made unbearable with increasing ltigation and complaints culture , huge indemnity fees ,not to mention the bureaucratic garbage of Revalidation that is triggering early retirements !

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  • ‘NHS England is beginning to reverse historic underinvestment with an extra £2.4bn going into general practice each year by 2021, a 14% rise in real-terms.’

    Can we not call this out as the BS it is? Much of the money has gone in paying for new workload - extended hours - and most of the rest is tied up in so many strings no one is receiving it and it is disappearing into CCG bottom lines.

    14% extra money for 20% extra work is not investment, it is worsening exploitation. The current situation is not the baseline for sustainability. We need more resources to deliver less work, so we can recruit and retain staff and return to previous quality levels.

    This is not rocket science!

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  • Vinci Ho

    ‘NHS England is beginning to reverse historic underinvestment with an extra £2.4bn going into general practice each year by 2021, a 14% rise in real-terms.’

    Ha ha ha , ‘beginning’ , only now after how long? Well, the narrative perhaps is changed , otherwise. 14% should be the percentage of the whole health budget for general practice
    Ha ha ha , GP by hand and Babylon would say why their existence is so ‘vital’ to general practice. Sign of the times.
    Ha ha ha , under ‘normal’ circumstances, the health secretary would have resigned by now . Promising 5000 more, but less than two years from deadline (2020), the total number of GPs has gone down by 1000 from the baseline. Another sign of the times.

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  • In Medway GMS Contracts for failing Practices are being given to APMS Providers by CCG/NHSE at £145 per patient without consultations with local Practices. On top there are interim payments of £5k per month and other' non-specified payments for additional reasons'.
    Surely, you can't have more open corruption than the banana estate of Medway and Kent with no authority to check or regulate them. 6 years ago another Practice had a similar APMS thrust on it for basic 64 pounds per patient as 'non-negotiable' on a take it or leave it basis while same Provider mentioned above was being given £250 per patient. This blatant abuse of power and corruption is the reason why Medway can't get off it's knees all these years.
    NHSE is always glad to close Practices as it opens venues for friendly APMS providers who can then be paid times over - backhanders in play???

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Brilliant news! When (if) it happens in the Tory heartlands maybe the national press/BBC/govt poodles will say something about it.
    Mind you, it is only when the punters can't get any surgery at all that they will really scream.

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  • NHS England - graphorrea par excellence

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