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One third of practices considering handing back their contract in one area

General practice in Essex is on the brink of collapse, the LMC has warned, after finding that almost one third of practices have considered handing back their contract.

Essex LMC’s survey of GP practices saw 31% respond that this was something they had considered, while a staggering 90% described their workload as unmanageable or unsustainable.

Worryingly, more than eight in ten practices, 85%, said they were seeing the quality of service deteriorating as a consequence, the survey of 151 practices in the county showed.

In all, 83% of practices said they are currently unable to provide enough appointments to meet the demands patients, with over half of respondents, 62%, confirming that the future viability of the practice was at risk.

The survey further uncovered 106 current GP vacancies and 62 GPs planning to retire within 12 months.

In a bid to create a safer, more effective healthcare environment, over 76% of Essex practices surveyed said that they would consider limiting the number of patient contacts, the LMC said.

It warned that if general practice did collapse in parts of Essex the inconvenience to patients would be ‘huge’ and it would be impossible for hospitals to cope.

Essex LMC chief executive Dr Brian Balmer said: ‘It is clearly evident, and has been for some time, that NHS England has repeatedly failed to address the serious and very obvious problems facing general practice in Essex.’

He also directed criticism against NHS England’s ‘success regime’ programme which is currently operating in the county, saying it was ’far more interested in the financial deficit of hospitals than… investing in models of safe, sustainable primary care for the residents of Essex’.

Essex is one of three areas, alongside Cumbria and northeast and west Devon, which were ‘diagnosed’ by NHS England last year as having a ‘long term systemic imbalance’ in structure and financial viability.

Calls to rescue general practice

The survey results come as a landmark study published in the Lancet earlier this month said general practice in England is ’reaching saturation point’.

And the GPC last week published a list of actions it wants to be taken to bring general practice in England back from the brink.

The ‘urgent prescriptions’ for general practice included putting a limit of the number of patient contacts per GP per day, a definition of work that is not covered by the core contract, and an overhaul of CQC regime to focus on practices where concerns were raised.

The calls have come as the Department of Health and NHS England are in the final stages of preparing their roadmap for general practice rescue package.

The rescue deal has been delayed, having initially been planned for February, as a suggested £110m package was branded ‘inadequate’.