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Practice forced to divert patients due to ‘staggering demand’ from closures

A GP practice in the West Midlands has warned it will direct patients to walk-in centres to ensure safe care due to the increasing demand it is experiencing following the closure of nearby surgeries. 

The Lion Health practice in Stourbridge said it will send certain patients to other care providers, including walk-in centres, to deal with the ‘staggering demands’ being placed on the surgery.

In a message to patients, the practice highlighted the ‘unprecedented challenges’ it is facing after it agreed to take on the patients from three practices closing in the area, alongside a branch of a surgery in a neighbouring town, a few years ago.  

Lion Health stressed it had ‘not actively sought’ to increase its patient list size – which has now risen to over 30,000. In 2015, the organisation served 24,700 patients.

It said the additional pressures had also prompted GPs to either cut their hours or leave altogether – and that the practice had so far been unable to replace them.

In a Facebook post to patients earlier this month, Lion Health said: ‘In recent years, three GP practices have closed in Stourbridge, and another GP practice has closed its branch surgery in Wollaston. In response to this, Lion Health has offered services to the patients of these establishments.

‘Lion Health has not actively sought to expand the patient population that we care for.

‘As a result, our practice population has now grown to well over 30,000 patients, which has brought with it pressure to meet staggering demands on the telephones and in the surgery.’

It added: ‘Another consequence of this growing population and increasing pressure, has been some GPs reducing their hours or leaving the practice. Given the current recruitment crisis felt throughout the wider NHS we have been, as yet, unable to replace them.

‘Going forwards, this may mean directing patients to walk-in centres or other care providers who are more appropriate and can offer our patients safe, efficient care.’

NHS Dudley CCG’s chief nurse Caroline Brunt said: ‘We recognise the challenges Lion Health is currently experiencing and we are working with the practice to further understand their pressures and to support them to improve access for their patients.’

The latest NHS Digital figures show that 11.3 million patients have waited more than 21 days to see a GP since July, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would put a stop to three-week waiting times

Pulse survey of more than 2,000 GPs and other primary care staff found that 41% of GP partners considered discontinuing services or implementing service cuts over the past year due to ongoing pressures