A GP practice caring for more than 25,000 patients will be handing back its NHS contract because there ‘simply are not enough trained GPs out there’ to recruit.
Inverurie Medical Group, which runs one of the largest practices in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, has announced it will hand back its contract with NHS Grampian on 7 September.
Alex Pirrie, interim partnership manager at Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership, said that the practice has been ‘unable to recruit to several vacancies for a GP for some time’ and that the partnership could take over the running of the practice, but that other avenues are also being explored.
It comes after the Fyvie Oldmeldrum Medical Group near Inverurie, which has 8,974 patients, also announced last month it will end its contract on 17 April due to staff shortages.
Dr Iain Innes, a partner at Inverurie Medical Practice, said this was ‘an extremely difficult decision for the partners.’
He said: ‘We cannot continue to provide the level of care we would wish to without recruiting new GPs to the practice.
‘We have explored every avenue to recruit with positivity but there simply are not enough trained GPs out there.
‘We have also tried to recruit to a variety of other roles to support patient care at the practice, but again we have struggled to get the people we need.’
Dr George Leiper, also a partner at the practice, said they had been ‘considering all options for a long time now.’
He said: ‘It is sad that we cannot continue as a partnership, but we are looking to the future and how we can continue to be part of the Inverurie community.
‘I would like to thank our staff for their professionalism and the care they deliver to people every day.
‘I would also like to thank our patients for the support they have provided to the Practice over the years, and I can promise that we will work with the Aberdeenshire Health & Social Care Partnership to make the handover of our contract as smooth as possible.’
In a letter to patients, Ms Pirrie said that this is a national issue ‘with many complexities’ and is not ‘due to lack of funding or effort.’
She said: ‘I appreciate that this is an uncertain time for those registered with the practice, however the practice will continue as normal over the next six months and there is no need for patients to change their practice, or take any other action, at this time.
‘There are two main ways forward in circumstances such as this. The first is that we, the Aberdeenshire HSCP would take over direct management and operation of the practice and the second is that a new partnership of GPs or similar might bid to take over operation and management of the practice.
‘In either of these circumstances, you can be assured that you would still get the care and support you need at the Inverurie Health and Social Care Hub.
‘We will keep patients and the wider community up to date with developments as soon as new information becomes available.’
The partnership already manages six other GP practices in the region, including Mintlaw and Aberchirder.
According to the BMA, about 2,000 new GPs are required to satisfy demand across practices in Scotland.
Andrew Buist, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee said this was ‘extremely worrying news’ and should be of ‘huge concern.’
He said: ‘Sadly it won’t be a surprise to anyone who understands the scale of the crisis GPs are facing across Scotland.
‘We don’t have enough GPs, and as the situation at Inverurie makes clear, practices are struggling desperately to recruit and retain the doctors they need.
‘We know the huge mismatch between demand and capacity this is creating – which is bad for practices and the patients they are striving to do their very best for.
‘There are no quick fixes here – but we simply must start investing properly in recruiting and retaining the GPs we need. Recent cuts to funding send entirely the wrong message and are undermining practices and their hardworking staff.’
Last month, partners at a GP practice in Oxford, England, with over 13,000 patients handed back their contract due to staff shortages and increasing demand.
In Northern Ireland, around 30 GP practices are at risk of closure and are receiving recovery support.
Meanwhile, a new study claimed that the abolition of QOF in Scotland was linked to a reduction in the recorded quality of care, although doctors’ leaders have said the results should be treated with caution.