More than 500 GP practices have closed since 2009/10, the Government has admitted, in what GPC has described as a ‘stark’ indication of the crisis facing general practice.
Health minister Dr Dan Poulter revealed in Parliament that the number of practices closing has increased dramatically since 2010, when 79 practices closed, compared with 2014, which has already seen 78 practices closing up to 31 August.
Overall, 518 practices have closed in the period, including 126 in 2013 and 124 in 2012.
Dr Poulter provided the figures in response to a question from Edmonton MP Andy Love, who had asked about closures in England, London and in his constituency area of Enfield, London. Mr Love has also given his support to Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign.
The figures showed that in the same time period, 110 practices opened, meaning there was just one new opening to every five closures. This year to date, there have been nine new practice openings.
Pulse has reported this year that LMC leaders had been approached by more than 100 practices who were considering closing due to reduction in funding and recruitment problems, and as a result started the Stop Practice Closures campaign.
The new figures also seems at odds with figures provided by NHS England in response to a freedom of information request by Pulse, which revealed that 99 practices had closed in the past four years.
Dr Poulter emphasised that these latest figures ‘also include practice mergers and takeovers and do not provide an accurate representation of activity or service provision’, adding: ‘In many cases, practices listed in these figures as having closed, will have in fact merged and will continue to see patients.’
An NHS England spokesperson reiterated the position, adding: ‘NHS England aims to ensure that all patients will be able to register with a GP.’
But GPC negotiator Dr Beth McCarron-Nash said: ‘It is stark. I think that general practice is in crisis and need urgent negotiated solutions and obviously we continue to lobby NHS England and the Department of Health to address the fundamental problems that GPs are facing.’
‘There has been no premises investment since 2004, there is constant change to the NHS, including the hand grenade that has been the Health and Social Care Act, a disinvestment in GP practice, a disinvestment in the contract and the fact that they have not had a national workforce strategy to actually solve the fact that over 25% of GPs are over the age of 50, and that along with the catastrophic changes to the NHS pensions scheme.’
‘I think all of this is a perfect storm for a GP to say “listen, I’ve had enough”, and the other thing I’ve missed off the list is the increasing levels of bureaucracy, such as the CQC etc.’
Please note: this article was changed at 11:56 on 11 September 2014 to reflect that there was one opening every five closures, not one every 21
|Practice closures and openings 2009-14|
|England||NHS London area||Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group area|
|2014 (to 31 August)||78||9||14||4||3||0|
|Source: House of Commons Hansard|