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New wave of GP practice closures across UK is ‘deeply concerning’

GP leaders are ‘deeply concerned’ following the closure of another four GP practices and proposals to close two branch surgeries.

Brownhill Surgery in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire, which serves 7,000 patients has announced it will close its doors in November after struggling with workload pressures and recruitment.

In a statement on behalf of the practice, from Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson, they said they had been left with ‘no option’.

Dr Watson said: ‘At Brownhill we have tried really hard to provide the best care we can to our patients. Unfortunately we have had GPs leave because of the workload.

‘We have been unable to recruit new GPs to replace them.

‘We are not alone in the problems with recruitment and retention but it has hit us harder than most.’

And in Sunderland, the Conishead Medical Group, has announced it will close by the end of the year with its 3,000 patients being dispersed to others in the area.

A statement from NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group said doctors at the practice had made the ‘difficult decision’ to hand their contract back after a possible merger fell through and it was unlikely they would be able to secure another provider.

North of the border in Kirkcaldy, Fife, the closure of one of four practices within a health centre has prompted concerns about the capacity of others in the town to take on the extra patients with some GPs reporting already having to work longer hours to meet demand.

NHS Fife said there had been ‘strenuous efforts to recruit a replacement’ after the single-handed GP resigned but to no avail.

A statement said they were grateful for the cooperation of other GP practices in Kirkcaldy and a ‘sustainability and resilience group has been set up to work alongside GPs and practices as we face challenges both in the short and long term’.

In Ayrshire, partners at the Glencairn Medical Practice handed back their contract with ‘immense sadness’ at the end of July citing funding and workload pressures.

A recent report from the local health board painted a bleak picture for general practice in the area, and warned that two new GPs were needed for every retiree because they are willing to work fewer sessions.

In Somerset, health officials have opened a consultation on the fate of a branch practice in Milverton that has been run by the Trust since last September after the previous partners retired or left the practice.

A shortage of doctors has left Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust with the preferred option of closing the practice which would leave resident of the village having to travel to see a GP.

In Wales, Pulse further understands that Botwnnog Surgery in Gwynedd is intending to apply to the health board to close its branch surgery in Abersoch due to lacking funds and GP workforce shortages.

BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It is deeply concerning that so many practices are closing and so many local communities are losing their much loved local GP service.

‘With over 200 practice closures or mergers in England last year hundreds of thousands of patients will have been impacted by these changes.’

He added: ‘It’s vital that practices across the UK receive the necessary funding after a decade of underinvestment, that workforce recruitment issues are more vigorously tackled, and that practice premises problems are resolved in order that practices can deliver sustainable services in the future.’