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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.