The partners at an Oxford GP practice with over 13,000 patients have handed back their contract due to staff shortages and increasing demand.
Botley Medical Centre announced earlier this week that its partners have handed in their six-month notice following failure to replace their recently retired partner colleague.
The local ICB said it intends to keep services running at the practice in the ‘long term’ and it will seek a new provider to take on the contract.
The local LMC has described this news as a ‘great blow’ to the area and ‘a symptom of a wider system in great distress’.
GP partners Dr Aintzane Ballestero and Dr Diana McEwen said that despite ‘best efforts’, they feel they are not able to offer patients the care they deserve in the long term.
They assured patients that the practice is not closing and that services will continue as normal over the next six months.
The practice comprises the main site in Botley as well as its branch site, Kennington Health Centre, and as of last month it has 13,348 patients registered.
Buckingham, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB) ICB committed to working closely with the Patient Participation Group (PPG) and key stakeholders to come to the ‘best possible solution’.
Dr Ballestero and Dr McEwen said in a joint statement: ‘We have been unable to find a new partner to take on Dr Mary Akinola’s workload after she retired in January.
‘There is a national shortage of GPs and we have struggled to fill our vacancies right across the practice staff team.
‘We have tried to find other ways to keep the practice going to offer a full range of services, most recently by making changes at Kennington Health Centre.
‘But despite the best efforts of the whole practice team, we feel we cannot offer you the care you deserve in the long term due our workforce shortages and significant increase in demand.’
Co-chief executive of Berks, Bucks and Oxon LMCs Dr Richard Wood said: ‘The news about Botley is a great blow to our local population and their practices. Unfortunately, this is a symptom of a wider system in great distress.’
Dr Wood cited the LMC’s own local data which shows that the equivalent of between 2% and 3% of the population calls their GP practice every working day, while the area has seen an 11% drop in GP workforce and the number of medical record entries generated more than doubled between 2021 and 2022.
He added: ‘Estates issues lie unresolved with no funding to increase the capacity even if we did have the increasing workforce we need.
‘The net result is a profession that faces a rapidly accelerating vortex of destruction.’
In a letter to the local MP Layla Moran on Monday, BOB ICB’s head of primary care Julie Dandridge said an initial meeting with the PPG will take place next Thursday to discuss the future of primary care in Botley and Kennington.
She wrote: ‘We appreciate this news will cause a lot of concern in the local community, but it is the intention of the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board to keep services running at both sites in the long term.
‘We will be looking for a new provider to take on the contract and exploring the possibility of neighbouring GP practices running the surgeries.’
Local councillor Emily Smith said the announcement is ‘such disappointing news after so much work was put in by many stakeholders to help the partners’.
Recent RCGP figures revealed that a quarter of GPs and other staff have said their practice is at risk of closing with workload pressures and GP partners leaving cited as reasons.