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74 practices considered ‘at risk’ over two years in Wales

Welsh practice closures have affected nearly 50,000 patients in the past two years, while over 70 practices were deemed ‘at risk’, the BMA has said.

The BMA’s data, which was collected through LMCs and reports on the Exeter database, showed that 13 practices closed between October 2015 and January 2018, leaving a total of 48,725 patients to find new practices.

Meanwhile, the data also show that 74 practices in Wales were ‘at risk’ of closing in that time, including 49 practices that asked their local health board for support to stay open.

This is a significant increase on figures released in June when 29 at risk practices had submitted a sustainability application to a panel to request extra support.

However, the latest figures add that a further 25 practices said that their future was uncertain or scored highly on a risk assessment ahead of applying to their local health board for support.

Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s GP committee for Wales, said the figures were ‘of grave concern and clearly reflects the pressures facing practices, which vary considerably across Wales’.

She said: ‘Any practice struggling should apply to their health board for support. This may be financial, administrative or managerial, and LMCs are represented at the sustainability panel meetings.’

Dr Jones added that the help provided to struggling practices by health boards ‘varies across Wales’, with the statistics revealing that 23 practices are currently health board managed. 

She said the BMA is continuing ‘to address both the problems facing practices, as well as pushing to ensure practices receive the support they need from health boards’.

Stop Practice Closures

Pulse launched its Stop Practice Closures campaign in 2014 after finding that local leaders were warning that dozens of practices were on the brink of closure due to funding cuts and recruitment problems. 

In 2015, the Government woke up to these problems, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt announcing a £10m package to support vulnerable practices as part of his so-called ‘new deal’ – the implementation of which NHS England last month admitted had been an ‘excrutiating disappointment’.

A year later, NHS England announced a further pot of funding of £16m to support practices. But Pulse has shown that funding to practices has been rushed, after a disappointing start.

Since then, a Pulse survey revealed last year that more than a quarter of a million patients in England were forced to move GP surgery last year as a result of closures.

Meanwhile, some surgeries are being forced to close for being too small with two 2,000-patient practices forced to shut at the end of February.