NHS managers are drawing up contingency plans for a mass exodus of single-handed GPs because of the introduction of revalidation.
Managers have predicted some single-handed GPs will quit practice rather than face ‘the more stringent requirements of revalidation' and others be forced into remediation.
An NHS Bedfordshire board meeting last month discussed plans for covering gaps in service in areas such as Luton, where of 31 practices, six are single-handed.
A board paper said: ‘It is conceivable some GPs, faced with the more stringent requirements of revalidation, may decide to retire.
‘Although not appropriate to speculate, the potential risk to business continuity must be considered, particularly since there is a relatively high proportion of single-handed practices in the cluster.
‘The cluster will need contingency arrangements if faced with more than the expected rate of resignations within the first few years of revalidation. Should more than a very small number of doctors have to undergo remediation, this would also affect business continuity.'
Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association and a GP in Swindon, said: ‘Some PCTs don't like single-handed GPs and never have.
‘They think single-handers must be delivering a poor-quality service and are hoping they'll jump before they're pushed. If they´re really worried about GP performance problems, they should be doing something about it not waiting for revalidation to sort it out. This is a real cop-out.'
Dr Fiona Sim, medical director of NHS Bedfordshire and Luton Cluster said: ‘We're working with our LMC and CCGs to develop a strategy to support general practice to address barriers to recruitment and retention.'