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8,000 patients losing their GP in new round of practice closures

At least 8,000 patients in England are being left to find a new GP amid a new spate of practice closures brought on by recruitment and financial woes.

The 3,000-patient Conishead Medical Group practice in Sunderland will close at the end of this year, after its two partners were forced to hand over their GMS contract

At the same time, a 5000-patient practice lost its fight for survival, despite political pressure, and a third practice is closing a branch surgery.

Conishead Medical Group partner Dr Mike Hipwell said: ‘We have been proud to serve the community in Ryhope for more than thirteen years, so this was an immensely difficult decision.

‘We have explored different options but we face increasing pressures on the service which are especially difficult for a practice of our size.’

Debbie Burnicle, deputy chief officer at NHS Sunderland CCG, said: ‘The partners have taken a difficult decision to bring their contract to an end on December 31.

‘We are looking at the best way to ensure that patients have access to a GP practice after that date.’

The news comes as GP leaders warned struggling practices that handing back their GMS contracts risks leading to profit-seeking companies taking them over.

Meanwhile, the fight to the Marske Medical Practice near Redcar, which had been run by a temporary provider since March, has been lost after four unsuccessful attempts by the CCG to find anyone to take it on permanently.

South Tees Medical Ltd held a temporary contract to provide services at the 5,000-patient practice until May this year, after its previous provider, Danum Medical Services Limited, went into administration.

The practice closure previously sparked a political row, with Labour MP Anna Turley saying the lack of bids marks a ‘damning indictment of this Government’s market approach to healthcare’.

But despite her interference, NHS South Tees CCG said it made ‘the difficult decision’ to close the practice after ‘four recent unsuccessful attempts at finding a provider for the service’.

A spokesperson said: ‘We are very disappointed to be in this position, but are left with little choice after no providers came forward to run the service.’

Further, Greenmoss Medical Centre in Stoke-on-Trent, which has a 4,700-patient list, is looking to close a branch practice after difficulty recruiting a replacement for a recently retired partner.

Practice manager Heather Grocott said: ‘Dr James Patterson is due to retire shortly, after being a GP at the branch surgery for many years, and whilst we are in the process of advertising for a new GP we are not currently in a position to be able to replace him.’

She added that facilities at the Rode Heath Surgery are not up to the same standard as those at Greenmoss, which she said was reflected in the practice’s ‘requires improvement’ rating by the CQC.

It comes as Pulse’s latest GP vacancy survey revealed that almost one in five practices has had to abandon searching for a new doctor as vacancy rates have hit their highest ever.