Record numbers of GP practices close, says research  

31 May 19

GP practice closures in the UK hit record levels last year as the health service deals with a workforce crisis, an investigation has found.

At least 583 practices have shut in the last six years with a record 138 shutting in 2018 alone, according to Freedom of Information Act data obtained  by the publication for GPs Pulse.

This 2018 figure was a considerable increase from the 18 closures in 2013. The total closures between 2013 and 2018 have affected nearly two million patients across the UK, the research found. 

The FoI stats obtained by Pulse revealed a further 12 closures occurred in January 2019 compare to eight in January 2018. Pulse’s data was collected via FoIs sent to all 217 CCGs, health boards and trusts in the UK and received 186 responses.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These figures are sad but, unfortunately, not surprising. GPs and our teams are working to our absolute limits to provide safe, high-quality care, while general practice is under intense pressure, and this is resulting in some GPs leaving the profession, and in other cases forcing them to close their surgery doors.”

Some closures are the result of practices merging in an attempt to pool resources, according to Stokes-Lampard.

“But when a practice closes because resource and workforce pressures mean that it is not longer safe or sustainable to keep running, it’s incredibly serious – and heart-breaking for everyone involved,” she added.

NHS Digital figures released yesterday showed that the number of full time equivalent GPs in England fell by 441 to 28,697 between March 2018 and March 2019.

Pulse analysis found that smaller practices were bearing the brunt of pressures as 86% of practices that closed last year, or had their practice list dispersed, served fewer than 5,000 patients.

Jackie Applebee, chair of the Tower Hamlets local medical committee, said: “The system is creaking. The smaller practices – which patients prefer and which have good outcomes – are being lost because of the under-resourcing.”

An NHS England spokesperson said: “In England there were fewer practice closures and patient dispersals in 2017-18 compared with 2016-17 and we continue to support all general practices to help them thrive.

“Thousands of practices continue to be helped through the GP resilience programme, where investment has been increased from a planned £8m in 2019-20 to £13million.”

Read a blog for PF  from NHS Employers’ Sue Covill on how the NHS workforce plan can tackle nursing shortages.

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