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​600 GP practices at risk of closure, says RCGP

Around 600 practices are at risk of closure by 2020 due to problems recruiting GPs, the RCGP has claimed.

These practices all have at least 75% of their GPs aged 55 and over, the college says, which will lead to a shortfall of almost 10,000 GPs across the UK within four years.

It comes as the RCGP has launched a new video campaign aimed at foundation doctors, medical students and sixth-form students.

The campaign is designed to show that general practice is ‘exciting and challenging’, and address the myth that ‘the role of a GP is somehow run-of-the-mill, with family doctors simply treating coughs and colds’.

The RCGP says that patient safety is at risk unless the recruitment issues are addressed.

Pulse has – through its Stop Practice Closures campaign – reported that a number of practices have closed as a result of being unable to recruit GPs.

Last week, partners at an 18,000-patient practice in Oxfordshire announced they were handing their contract back after failing to recruit enough GPs to remain open.

The RCGP’s analysis of official figures concluded that by 2020 there will be a shortfall of 8,371 GPs in England, 830 in Scotland, 424 in Wales and 316 in Northern Ireland due to the prevalence of GPs over the age of 55 and an increasing number of early retirements.

It said that in response, it is ‘launching a ground-breaking new video and guide’.

A statement from the college said: ‘[We hope] that the video and guide will explode the myth perpetuated by TV programmes like Casualty, Holby City and 24 Hours in A&E that only doctors who work in hospital settings have an exciting and challenging role.

‘Another falsehood that the video and guide – both called Think GP – will try to address is the idea that circulates in certain parts of the medical world that that the role of a GP is somehow run-of-the-mill, with family doctors simply treating coughs and colds.’

It follows the failed Health Education England video campaign last year, which featured a GP signing off forms for a patient to go skydiving.

Already the RCGP’s video – which follows GPs around a series of settings, including a rural GP, a prison GP and an academic GP – has been better received than HEE’s campaign.

RCGP chair Dr Maureen Baker said: ‘It is imperative that we recruit huge numbers of medical students and foundation doctors into general practice in order to keep the NHS on its feet. If we fail, there will be too few GPs to go round, practices will close, and patient safety in general practice will clearly be at risk.

‘Despite the fact that general practice is critical to the success of the NHS, there is a bizarre misconception in certain parts of the medical world that GPs merely treat coughs and colds.

‘However, our Think GP video and guide explode this dangerous myth by showing that family doctors are expert medical generalists who have to manage and understand chronic long-term conditions and deliver the continuing care that our most complex of patients need.’