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‘Close to collapse’ GP practices cut clinical services and routine appointments

Exclusive Workload pressures have pushed over half (55%) of GP practices to cut back on clinical services or consider doing so, a Pulse survey has revealed.

A Pulse survey of 528 GP partners revealed this was one of a range of measures practices are taking in a bid to stave off pressures. This also included reducing routine appointments on offer, which over a third (36%) of respondents said they had done or were considering.

Respondents said this comes as practices are finding themselves ‘close to collapse’ amid rising general practice workload. 

A Pulse investigation last year revealed record numbers of practices were closing or merging.

Meanwhile, average GP waiting times remained at two weeks despite the Government’s GP Forward View rescue package.

The survey showed that:

  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents said they have already discontinued clinical services, with another 32% thinking about it.
  • A fifth of practices (21%) had slashed routine appointments in the last 12 months, with a further 15% considering it.

GPs mentioned ‘ear syringing’ and other ‘minor’ services as examples of what had been cut back, alongside travel-related services.

Other measures included attempting to work collaboratively with other practices, including:

  • Just under 10% of partners, who said their practice has merged with another practice and 32% who said they had considered it over the last year.
  • Nearly a fifth of practices (19%) have federated with another practice, whilst a further 37% mulled over it during the last 12 months.

Dr Peter Goodall, a Southampton GP partner, whose practice has thought about merging, told Pulse: ‘We are really close to collapsing, feel that the CCG has not got much to offer.’

One Devon GP, who wanted to stay anonymous told Pulse that practices in the area were under pressure.

A GP in Scotland said her practice is ‘refusing private work, such as legal letters and benefits appeals with poor chance of success’.

It comes as Pulse reported that more than a third of practices are considering closing their list to new patients

Survey questions in full

Have you looked at cutting routine appointments over the past 12 months?

Yes, we have already done it – 21%

Yes, we are considering it – 15%

No – 62%

Don’t know – 2%

Have you looked at discontinuing clinical services over the past 12 months?

Yes, we have already done it – 23%

Yes, we are considering it – 32%

No – 44%

Don’t know – 1%

Have you looked at a merger with another practice over the past 12 months?

Yes, we have already done it – 9%

Yes, we are considering it – 32%

No – 57%

Don’t know – 2%

Have you looked at federating with another practice over the past 12 months?

Yes, we have already done it – 19%

Yes, we are considering it – 37%

No – 41%

Don’t know – 3%

The survey was launched on 10 October 2017, collating responses using the SurveyMonkey tool. The 25 questions asked covered a wide range of GP topics, to avoid selection bias on one issue. The survey was advertised to our readers via our website and email newsletter, with a prize draw for a Ninja Coffee Bar as an incentive to complete the survey. A total of 500 GPs answered this question.