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Almost 300 GP practices face closure

More than 600 other practices in England are in weak financial position, BMA survey finds

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 03 March 2016

Almost 300 practices in England could close because they are financially “unsustainable”, and more than 600 more are in a weak financial position, a BMA survey of GP practices in England has found.

The survey, which received a response from 2,830 GP practices, around a third of all GP practices in the England, found that one in ten practices believe they are financially “unsustainable” (294 GP practices across England) and that a further 22% are having to make plans to correct a weak financial position (610 practices in England). Only one in twenty GP practices (5%) reported that their finances were in a strong state.

Almost half the practices (46%) reported having GPs working there who planned to desert the NHS – 37% had GPs intending to retire and 9% GPs planning to leave the UK.

The North East and East Anglia had the highest levels of practices reporting GPs considering retirement – 42% and 41% respectively. The areas in which practices were most likely to report GPs planning to leave the NHS were situated in the South (12%), the East Midlands (11%) and the South West (11%)

London had by far the worst figures for financial stability, with the highest level of GP practices concerned their services were unsustainable (14%), the largest proportion reporting their overall financial position was weak (41%) and the lowest number of GP practices reporting their situation as “strong” (2%).

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said: “This survey provides further evidence of the state of emergency facing general practice. Almost half of GP practices are looking at the loss of part of their workforce at a time when there is a shortfall in new doctors entering general practice. As GP services struggle to replace existing staff who leave, it will inevitably make it more difficult to maintain current services to patients and particularly to offer enough appointments for them. Just as worrying, close to three hundred practices looking after tens of thousands of patients believe their financial future is unsustainable.

“GP practices are facing this dire situation because they are being overwhelmed by rising patient demand, cuts to funding, staff shortages and more unfunded work being moved from hospitals into the community. Given these pressures it is unsurprising that GPs are considering leaving the NHS while new medical graduates are turning their backs on a career as a GP, a situation undoubtedly worsened by the government’s appalling handling of the junior doctor contract.”

The BMA has launched an initiative called an ‘Urgent Prescription for General Practice’, which includes sending every practice in England a package of materials including guidance on how to manage workload safely.

Dr Nagpaul added: “With hundreds of GP practices facing financial uncertainty, and close to 300 facing possible closure, 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.”

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