Patients lose cover as GPs forced to shrink boundaries
Parts of the UK are set to become 'black holes' with no GP services because practices are shrinking their boundaries to avoid housing developments.
The warning comes after NHS managers uncovered GP-free zones in Berkshire covering several square miles when they mapped practice boundaries.
Thames Valley Primary Care Agency carried out the exercise in a bid to account for rocketing numbers of forced allocations.
GPs have warned the problem will worsen under Government plans for 120,000 new homes in the Midlands and South-East and could spread to other areas as a result of continuing GP shortages.
Dr Martin Smith, a GP in Swallowfield, Berkshire, won a recent NHS tribunal to contract his practice boundary after plans were unveiled to build around 1,000 new homes within its limits. Wokingham PCT resisted the boundary change, but the practice won on appeal.
'We are a rural dispensing practice covering 10,000
people in a patch 10 miles across,' Dr Smith said. 'There is no way our building capacity could be increased and we don't want more than five-and-a-half partners. We did not see how we could cope. It has left a piece of Berkshire without any doctors.'
Berkshire and Buckinghamshire LMC secretary Dr Chris Tiarks said workload increases were causing practices to 'look at their boundaries and alter them'. He added: 'That can expose areas that don't have cover. It is likely to be a national problem.'
GPC member for Buckinghamshire and Berkshire, Dr Eric Rose, said the Government had not given enough thought to how GPs in areas with rapidly expanding population would cope.
He added: 'The type 2 allowance which permitted funding ahead of population growth enabled this to some extent, but it ceases under the new contract. Things will be even worse now.'