Thousands of patients forced to hunt for a new GP as staffing shortages accelerate practice closures

Thousands of patients have had to find a new GP because their local practice has closed, as staffing shortages and workload pressures take their toll on surgeries, new figures show.

In England, Scotland and Wales, 61 practices have closed since April 2013 which has forced more than 160,000 people to register somewhere new, figures obtained via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests show. Closures are being forced by problems both in recruiting new GPs and in retaining the existing workforce. The figures, obtained by the GPs’ magazine Pulse, were described as “the tip of an iceberg” by one senior GP.

Data released by the Government last year indicated that more than 500 practices had closed between 2009 and mid-2014. These also include practices lost through mergers and takeovers. However, a previous FOI request by Pulse revealed a sharp increase in the number of practices approaching NHS managers for formal advice about closing: 169 made such requests between April and December last year – compared with just 37 in a year between April 2013 and March 2014.

Practice closures are piling pressure on other GPs who must take on the displaced patients, doctors’ leaders said. Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told Pulse: “There are many practices on the brink of collapse, while others are significantly reducing the level of services they can offer.

Full story in The Independent 1 June 2015