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Hundreds of thousands in London could be stranded with no GP, warns Royal College

One in 10 surgeries in capital could close in next 3 years, LMC survey suggests

Caroline White

Monday, 06 July 2015

Thousands, if not millions, of patients in London could be forced to travel miles to their nearest GP practice or be left stranded with no family doctor at all, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned.

The warning comes in the wake of figures published in The Guardian online, showing that a significant minority of GPs in the capital are considering handing back their contract to NHS England over the next three years.

The report is based on a poll of 431 surgeries in the capital, carried out by London wide Local Medical Committees.

Forty three practices said they were definitely thinking about shipping out by 2018 because a colleague was due to retire by then.

Altogether 302 confirmed that at least one doctor was due to retire by 2018, while over half of respondents said they were actively trying to recruit a GP and/or practice nurse according to The Guardian. There are a total of 1,400 practices in the capital.

“It is shocking that we have reached a situation where so many GP practices – the lifeblood of local communities – have closed or are under threat of closure,” commented RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker.

“Unless drastic action is taken, thousands, if not millions, of patients could be forced to travel miles to their nearest GP practice or be left stranded with no family doctor at all, she said. “This is a genuine danger to patient safety – as well as to the wellbeing of hardworking family doctors and our teams.” 

But she said this problem was not unique to London.

“We know that in many areas, practices are closing because there are not enough GPs to run them and this can cause a domino effect of piling the pressure on neighbouring surgeries, particularly in remote and rural areas and areas of high deprivation,” she insisted.

“That’s why we are urging the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ahead of next week’s emergency budget, to establish a stabilisation fund to help practices most at risk of closure due to lack of funding or staffing problems, and for Ministers to publicly commit to ensuring that no practice closes due to lack of resources,” she said.

GPs were coping with 150,000 more appointments every day, the equivalent of the entire population of Oxford, she pointed out.

“Highly trained, experienced and committed family doctors are leaving the profession in growing numbers because of the intense pressures we are facing, and not enough medical students are entering general practice to replace them,” she insisted. 

The College is calling on the government to invest 11% of the NHS budget in general practice, and for an additional 8,000 GPs in England over the course of the next parliament.

“We need to do everything possible to ‘recruit, retain and return’ GPs so that we can build a workforce fit to deliver the care that our patients need and guarantee a secure future for GP practices,” said Baker.

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