Figures released today show that GP surgeries are closing at an alarming rate – with as many as 1.3 million patients being forced to change practice.
Between 2013 and 2017 there have been 445 closures across England, mostly in rural areas as a result of GP shortages and loss of funding.
‘Whether it’s in Plymouth, Brighton, Folkestone, or anywhere else in the UK, a GP practice closing can have serious ramifications for the patient population it served, neighbouring surgeries, the health and wellbeing of the GPs involved,’ said Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
‘Sometimes, a closure is due to a practice merging, or becoming part of a federation, so that it can pool resources in the best interests of patient care. But when it is because the practice team simply can’t cope with the resource and workforce pressures they are facing, it’s a serious failure of the system.’
‘For those living in isolated areas, this can mean having to travel long distances to get to their nearest surgery, and is a particular worry for those who might not drive and have to rely on public transport.’
The RCGP state that they urgently need to see NHS England’s GP Forward View ‘delivered in full’, which promised an extra £2.4 billion a year and 5,000 more GPs by 2020.
‘These new figures will resonate with the experience of GPs across the country as the recruitment and retention crisis in general practice is impacting practices of all sizes and all situations,’ said Richard Vautrey, chair of the British Medical Association.
‘Practices in rural and coastal regions, where the distance from large cities becomes a major obstacle in drawing in new recruits, have been particularly badly hit.’
Last year NHS England planned to recruit up to 3,000 GPs from overseas and increase numbers by 5,000 in total by 2020.
‘More than 3,000 GP practices have received extra support thanks to a £27m investment over the past two years, and there are plans to help hundreds more this year,’ said an NHS England spokesperson.
‘NHS England is beginning to reverse historic underinvestment with an extra £2.4bn going into general practices each year by 2021, a 14 per cent rise in real terms.’