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Ministers admit there is ‘an issue about practice closures’

Health ministers have vowed to meet with MPs concerned about a vast number of practice closures in their areas, after admitting there was an ‘issue about the closure of GP surgeries’.

Speaking at the first Parliamentary debate on health since the Conservative Party won a majority vote in the general election last month, the new ministerial line-up promised that general practice was at the top of their agenda for the next Parliament and promised to meet with MPs and visit practices.

It comes as Pulse has revealed that 160,000 patients were displaced as a result of practice closures in the first two years after the NHS reforms.

In the debate, Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry asked health secretary Jeremy Hunt whether he could ‘wait a moment’ to consider the GP surgeries closing because partners were resigning, in response to Mr Hunt’s pledge to introduce a seven-day GP service.

Ms Thornberry said there were ‘three GP surgeries closing because our GPs have all resigned’, and asked whether he will ‘meet a group of inner-London MPs in order to talk about our grave concerns about the changes to funding and the lack of resources available’.

The health secretary said he would meet with the MPs, adding that ‘underfunding of general practice has been a historical problem’ which ‘is something that we want to put right.’

He also admitted the Government has to ‘deal with the issue of burnout’ because ‘many GPs are working very hard’.

But he said it was ‘also the case that we need to raise standards in general practice’, saying the ‘Ofsted-style’ CQC ratings brought in with the last Government would be ‘good in the long run for GPs as well’.

Meanwhile responding to a direct question from another north London MP, new health minister Alistair Burt agreed that ‘there is an issue about the closure of GP surgeries’.

Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq had raised concern that a GP practics closure in her constituency would mean that ‘over 1,000 patients will have to go elsewhere to seek basic primary care’.

Health minister Alistair Burt said: ‘There is an issue about closure of GPs surgeries, they happen from time to time, and as my right honourable friend has said there is going to be an opportunity to meet with inner London MPs to discuss this.’

During the debate, Mr Burt also claimed to have a special soft spot for GPs, because his 93-year old father was also in the profession.

He said: ‘Can I thank him and all other GPs for their devotion to their practice and for looking after people as well as they have done.

‘They are a vital part of the service and I will be keen and rather soft on GPs and want to see them enjoy their profession as much as my father has enjoyed his.’

Mr Burt, the Conservative MP for north east Bedfordshire, was appointed minister of state for community and social care at the Department of Health last month.

Pulse has been highlighting the effects of practice closures as part of the Stop Practice Closures campaign, which has sought to support practices that are struggling.