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500% increase in GP practices asking managers for support to close surgeries

Exclusive There has been a massive rise in practices approaching NHS managers about advice on closing or merging over the past year, Pulse can reveal.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by Pulse – made as part of our Stop Practice Closures campaign – reveals 169 practices approached NHS England for advice about closing or merging between April and December last year.

Extrapolated across the 2014/15 financial year, this represents an increase of 508% compared with the 37 requests over the whole of April 2013-March 2014.

The figures also revealed that 78 practices have either closed completely or closed a branch surgery as a result of merger since April 2013 – a trend that has accelerated since April 2014.

Pulse revealed last year that there were more than 100 practices who had sought advice from their LMC about potentially closing, which led to Pulse starting the Stop Practice Closures campaign.

However, the latest figures reveal a massive rise in practices formally asking NHS England for advice due to funding cuts, being blocking from closing their practice list and problems with recruiting new GPs.

Dr Robert Mockett, a GP partner in Brighton, was forced to close his Eaton Place Surgery at the weekend as he and his partner are retiring and could not find anyone to take over the surgery.

Speaking to Pulse before the practice closed, Dr Mockett said: ‘The outpouring of emotion from patients has had me in tears all morning. I thought I’d stay until 65 but I would not survive. I feel for my patients.’

Dr Peter Maksimczyk, a GP in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, said he is in the ‘very sad’ situation of potentially having to sell his surgery because he can’t find anyone willing to take it on in the current financial climate.

He says: ‘We have a nice, traditional practice with high patient population. I am 64 and still working full time; my partner is slightly younger. In the next few months, I will be seeking to retire, or at least drastically reduce my commitment, but am concerned that no one will want to take on the practice.

‘If that is the case, I will have to sell up and convert the surgery into flats, which would be very sad. I’m certainly not going to carry on doing what I am now.’ 

Dr Robert Morley, chair of the GPC contracts and regulations subcommittee, says: ‘This writing has been on the wall for the best part of a couple of decades and is now painted in enormous bold capital letters in a fluorescent font with powerful searchlights pointed at them.’

This comes after Pulse revealed last week that NHS England were offering £25 per patient for practices to take on patients as a result of the closure of the Eaton Place Surgery, and that NHS England had been accused by GP leaders of allowing smaller practices to fold.