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GP workforce crisis forces 5,000-patient practice into closure

A 5,000-patient GP branch surgery is closing later this year after the practice failed to recruit new doctors for vacant positions.

The Folkestone East Family Practice in Kent will close on 1 November after a major recruitment campaign did not result in a single application.

The doctors will continue to provide services at the Sandgate Road Surgery, but patients fear they will not have capacity to absorb the whole patient list of its sister practice.

Practice manager Christopher Lewis said that due to the ‘insufficient medical capacity for the two practices to safely maintain services for the future’ the partners ‘have reluctantly been forced to [decide to] cease providing services to patients at Folkestone East Family Practice’.

He said this comes as ‘despite advertising for over a year both nationally and internationally, owing to the national shortage of GPs wanting to join partnerships, no applications have been received from any doctors’.

A spokesperson for NHS South Kent Coast CCG said: ‘The practice has advised us that it has had significant challenges in recruiting enough GPs to safely maintain services for the future, and has therefore decided to consolidate its workforce at Sandgate Road Surgery.

‘We have written to the practice’s patients to reassure them we are working to secure arrangements for their care after that date.’

But Joanna Smith, a patient at Folkestone East Family Practice, told KentLive: ‘Every single other GP in town has closed its doors to new patients as they are already at full capacity, I’ve rung every single one and checked.

‘This will leave 5,000 people in Folkestone without healthcare. I don’t know where they expect these patients to go, 5,000 people is a lot of people to find new spaces for, especially when everywhere is full already.’

The news comes Pulse’s latest survey on GP vacancies revealed that almost one in five practices has had to abandon searching for a new doctor as vacancy rates have hit their highest ever.