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18,000-patient GP practice set to close

A health board has to find new GP services for 18,000 patients after a large practice handed in its contract due to severe recruitment problems.

The Pendyffryn Medical Group has given the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board six months’ notice that they will be terminating the contract effective 31 March 2016.

A joint statement from the practice and the health board said they would work together to plan how patients would continue to get access to GP services from April onwards.

The statement said: ’The health board is responsible for making sure that people in North Wales have access to these services. It is therefore working closely with Pendyffryn Medical Practice to plan how their patients will continue to get the local services that they need from April 2016 onwards.

’Over the next six months, we will keep patients and other members of the local population informed of our progress, and will respond to any concerns and questions. We will also work together to support all the staff in the practice and ensure that they are kept up-to-date and understand the new arrangements that are being put in place.’

Clare Darlington, head of primary care and commissioning for the central area within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board told Pulse that the 18,000-patient practice currently has six GP partners, three of which are part time, and one salaried GP.

Regarding the closure, she added: ‘This is due to a number of retirements, workload pressures and their inability to recruit GPs.’

Dr Eamonn Jessup, a partner at the practice and chair of North Wales LMC, told the BBC that it has been ‘practically begging’ GPs to come work for the practice but that it ‘can’t find anyone’.

He told Pulse last year that the practice had spent spent ‘thousands’ on advertising posts, and it had to target MPIG-affected practices in England to try and attract candidates.

Wales LMC deputy chair Dr David Bailey said it was ’unquestionably the largest closure in Wales and one of the largest in the UK’. He added that some of the partners have agreed to consider working as salaried GPs for the health board when it takes over the running of the practice, but said similar arrangements have hiked costs in the past.

He said: ’They have been trying for some time to recruit and have failed to do so over twelve months or more. The health board will take over running and some of the partners have agreed to consider salaried working for the health board.

’Previous experience of LHB managed practices in North Wales suggests that costs will increase by about £30 per patient.’

The announcement comes just weeks after the Welsh Government wrote to all GP practices to invite them to bid for support if they considered themselves vulnerable to closure.

The sustainability scheme, negotiatated as part of the two-year 2015-17 GP contract, focuses mainly on practical rather than financial support however will draw on the £34m announced to alleviate the Welsh GP recruitment crisis.

The Wales deanery has recruited 107 GP trainees this year but Pulse understands some 190 would be needed to meet expected future demand.

Meanwhile some 2,500 patients are set to lose their local practice when the Nantyffyllon Surgery, based in Maesteg in south Wales, closes on 1 October, after a health board was unable to attract a single applicant to take on the contract.

They are the latest in a string of closures caused by the UK-wide recruitment crisis which Pulse has revealed has seen more than 160,000 patients displaced across the UK in just two years.