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200,000 patients displaced after rapid rise in GP surgery closures last year



Exclusive The number of patients being displaced by surgery closures has risen by 50% in a year, with 200,000 patients in 2015 forced to register with a new GP or travel further to see their existing GP.

The shocking figures reveal a growing crisis in the provision of general practice, with the number of practices either closing altogether or shutting down branch surgeries rising by 40%.

The investigation by Pulse reveals that 31 GP practices in England closed and 41 branch surgeries were closed as a result of a merger in 2015. Collectively, these premises served 206,269 patients. This compares with 43,000 patients experiencing similar problems in 2013.

Dr Robert Mockett - online

Dr Robert Mockett – online

 

’This is like a bereavement’ Dr Robert Mockett

The figures come days before GP leaders debate emergency measures to ensure the future of general practice, including mass resignation.

The conference comes after NHS bosses have ignored warnings for months about the sustainability of general practice in many areas. The NHS has only just instructed all areas to come up with a plan to shore up general practice, with a £10m pilot to be launched later this year to help vulnerable practices. A ‘new deal’ for practices offered by the health secretary Jeremy Hunt last year has failed to address the problem.

Practices cite rising workload, funding cuts and a severe shortage of GPs as the reason why they have had to close surgeries. Pulse revealed last year a massive rise in vacant GP partner posts.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It’s becoming increasingly difficult for small practices to cope with rising levels of bureaucracy and manage their workload. Often they work in inner-city areas serving deprived communities, which can be really quite challenging. They haven’t had the investment in premises and other types of development, so it’s very difficult to attract new GPs to go in there and work alongside them.’

Londonwide LMC’s medical director Dr Tony Grewal said: ‘Even where a practice has had problems and all are agreed something needs to be done, the level of support available from NHS England, and cash-strapped CCGs, is at best variable.’

Dr Robert Mockett closed his practice in Brighton last year and became a prison doctor. He told Pulse: ‘We were doing 10 sessions a week and had locums in. If we could have afforded to take someone else on then we could have kept it going but no one wants to be a GP any more. It got down to the point where it was get out or go bust – it was better to walk away.’

Pulse has highlighted the increasing numbers of practices closing and their impact through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: ‘These figures represent less than 1% of the total number of GP practices in England. It has always been the case that a small number open, close, or merge over time. What’s important is that patients continue to get access to the services they need.’

What the results show

Pulse asked NHS England to give details of any practice closure or merger that resulted in the closure of premises.

  No. of practices closed Patients displaced as result of closure No. of premises closed due to merger Patients displaced as result of merger Total number of practices / premises closed Total number of patients displaced

2013

11

29,075

9

14,574

20

43,649

2014

30

64,241

21

73,570

51

137,811

2015

31

63,930

41

142,339

72

206,269

Source: Freedom of Information request to NHS England, and Health and Social Care Information Centre figures on numbers of patients per practice. This is an underestimate as information regarding six practices was not provided in time for publication.