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Practice hands back contract due to recruitment crisis

Partners at a practice in Bristol have been forced to hand their contracts back to NHS England as a result of the recruitment crisis that has engulfed general practice.

The St Martin’s Surgery in Knowles may have to close unless NHS England can find an alternative provider to the current partners, Dr Holly Hardy and Dr Karen Houghton, after they made the ‘horrible decision’ to resign their contract.

This comes after a Pulse survey of 25 local GP leaders revealed that over 60 practices face imminent closure due to issues over funding and recruiting staff.

The problems began when the surgery’s two full-time senior partners retired in 2012 and 2013, and a subsequent recruitment drive attracted only two applicants – one of whom turned down a job offer, and another who left after only 18 months in post.

Dr Hardy told Pulse that plans for a merger with a nearby larger practice fell through after three months of planning, and subsequent efforts to bring in help from five other local practices were abandoned, again due to a lack of resourcing. 

Patients have been sent letters informing them of the situation, and NHS England said it will contact them again once a solution has been reached. In the meantime, many patients have contacted Dr Hardy offering to help.

Dr Hardy said: ‘They’ve been lovely, asking after the staff and asking if they can sign a petition to help us. It’s very touching, and we’ll take whatever support we can get.

‘But the bigger question is, where are the doctors? It’s clear this is a national problem.

We’ve got more work coming out of secondary care into primary care, but the money’s not coming with it. GPs are overworked, there’s a retirement bulge coming, and we’re lacking in recruits.’

The pair now face a summer of running the surgery singlehanded due to a shortage of holiday locum cover.

She told Pulse: ‘We’ve had to have redundancy conversations with our staff, some of whom have been working here for 30 years. It’s very upsetting for them, but they want to keep going to the end.’

NHS England have put out for expressions of interest across north Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with a closing date of 1 July.

If another organisation does not take over the practice by the end of the doctors’ six week notice period, it will close and its list of 6,000 patients will be dispersed to other surgeries.

Image credit: Jaggery – Photo is copyrighted but also licensed for further reuse.

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