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Dr Holly Hardy: ‘We’ve exhausted all the options’

We have had to resign our contract after both our senior partners took early retirement in the past two years, leaving me and a colleague as the sole remaining partners. We’ve been unable to replace them – the first person we recruited decided not to take the job, and the second left after 18 months.

The partners are only supposed to do six sessions between the two of us, but since January we’ve had to work the week. We use locums where we can, but our drawings have gone down to the extent where it’s costing us more for locums than it would for a partner.

We’ve had lots of good locums, but none of them want to take up permanent positions. One of the challenges is our premises – most new GPs prefer hospital-style surgeries, but we’re based in a Victorian house. It isn’t ideal, but we’re not in a position to move to purpose-built premises. We’ve exhausted all the options suggested by NHS England.

The initial plan was to look at a merger with another practice, but a large surgery nearby pulled out at the very last minute, citing recruitment as their worry. Then a group of five practices said they might be able to help by lending us a GP. But when it came down to it, they didn’t have the capacity themselves

Resigning was a horrible decision. We had to have redundancy conversations with our staff, some of whom have been working here for 30 years. It makes me feel like a failure. It’s eased a bit by lovely feedback from patients and staff, but it’s been difficult fitting in all the clinical work and trying not to cry.

Our notice period will be up in the middle of September. NHS England have had a number of expressions of interest, but if they can’t find anyone suitable by then the practice will close and our list of 6,000 patients will be dispersed. But I know we’re not the only ones in the area experiencing problems; if other practices can’t recruit either, they’ll be swamped.It’s a knock-on effect. 

The bigger question is, where are the doctors? It’s clear this is a national problem. We’ve got more work coming out of secondary care into primary care, but the money’s not coming with it. GPs are overworked, there’s a retirement bulge coming, and we’re lacking in recruits.

Dr Holly Hardy is a GP in Knowles, Bristol