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One in ten GP practices ‘at risk of closure’, warns BMA

More than 800 GP practices in England are at risk of having to close due to being ’financially unsustainable’, a major BMA survey has shown.

The survey of 2,830 practices found that 294 practices (10%) regard themselves as financially unsustainable within the next year.

It also shows that almost half of practices in England (46%) say they have at least one GP planning to retire, or leave UK general practice, in the next 12 months;

The GPC says it has conducted the survey to supply evidence of the ‘state of emergency’ general practice is in, and the results follow the Special LMC Conference in January, which called on the GPC to consider canvassing the profession on potential mass resignation in six months.

The chair of the GPC said that this demonstrated the ‘dire situation’ GPs face, and that thousands of patients will be left without a practice unless the Government implements a rescue package.

It comes after Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign revealed that over 200,000 patients were displaced last year after a rapid rise in GP surgery closures.

The BMA’s survey also found:

  • Only one in 20 practices said their financial viability was ‘strong’, while just over half 59% said it was reasonable, and a fifth (22%) said it was weak, but they were working to improve their sustainability;
  • The worst situation is in London, where 14% of practices say they are not financially sustainable;
  • The North East and East Anglia have the highest levels of practices that say they are set to lose a GP to retirement (at 42% and 41% respectively);
  • Practices in the South and East Midlands say they are most likely to lose a GP to emigration (both at 11%).

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was ‘unsurprising that GPs are considering leaving the NHS while new medical graduates are turning their backs on a career as a GP’, which he said was ’undoubtedly worsened by the Government’s appalling handling of the junior doctor contract’.

Dr Nagpaul added: ‘With hundreds of GP practices facing financial uncertainty… we need the Government to act urgently to deliver a comprehensive rescue package that safeguards GP services for patients. We cannot have a situation where thousands of patients are left without a local GP practice that can deliver the care they deserve.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We know GPs are under pressure and that is why we have agreed record investment for general practice. We saw an increase in the number of GPs recruited last year, and we will continue to boost numbers with an extra 5000 doctors in general practice by 2020 – helping to deliver a safer NHS for patients seven days a week.’

Is the cavalry coming for GPs?

Stop Practice Closures-logo-online-330

Stop Practice Closures-logo-online-330

The BMA’s stark warning comes as Pulse recently revealed that over 200,000 patients were displaced last year after a rapid rise in GP surgery closures.

Area teams have been instructed to draw up lists of around 600 struggling practices in England to get a share of a £10m pot of emergency support this year, after lobbying by Pulse’s Stop Practice Closures campaign. Although this has been criticised by LMC leaders as too little, too late.

A rescue package that was due to be announced by the Government in February has been delayed and is now expected around next month.