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BMA warns of patient impact amid another spate of GP practice closures


A spate of practice closures and mergers around the UK has once again highlighted the underfunding and workforce shortages facing GP surgeries.

The BMA warned that practices having to hand back contracts was becoming increasingly problematic for patients having to travel further to access general practice.

In Llanelli, Wales, the partners of an 8,000-patient practice have announced they will be handing back their contract to the health board this summer.

Patients are being urged by the health board not to try and register with other practices with health officials working to get a plan in place for Ash Grove Medical Centre over the next six months.

In Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, a town beset by practice closures over the past year, another three practices are merging into one after the retirement of two more doctors.

Over 18 months, practices in Fermanagh have reduced by more than half raising concerns about the sustainability of rural health services in the country.

The latest merger covers a geographical area 20 miles wide although a letter to patients said medical services would be provided from all three sites.

In Croydon patients expressed their dismay after being told by GPs that the Coulsden Medical Practice would be closing in the near future.

NHS Croydon CCG said they were aware of the situation at the 3,600-patient practice and that they were committed to working ‘to ensure that all registered patients have access to the best possible GP services in Croydon’.

And in Swindon, councillors have warned that the closure of a branch surgery in Nythe will leave elderly patients stranded and unable to easily access a GP 20 minutes walk or two bus rides away.

NHS Swindon CCG said the 1,950 patients who usually attended the Nythe branch surgery ‘could also attend the main site’.

The CCG also said they were working with the practice to try and solve the transport issue.

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘The pressures on general practice from a decade of underfunding and subsequent workforce crisis is impacting practices across the UK.

‘For some this has pushed them to the brink and resulted in them handing back their contract and closing the practice.

‘This is having an increasing impact on patients who are left without a local GP practice and have to travel much further to access a service. It’s clear evidence of why we need significant recurrent investment to be made in to general practice as soon as possible.’