Nearly 100 GP surgeries closed as two million find new doctor 2015

Nearly 100 GP surgeries closed their doors last year as new figures reveal two MILLION patients have been forced to find a new family doctor since 2015

  • It’s estimated 502 GP practices have closed or merged in the past five years
  • Experts say closures hitting the most vulnerable the hardest such as the elderly
  • GP leaders blame national shortage of family doctors and increasing workloads

More than 2 million patients have been forced to find a new GP in the past five years as a result of surgery closures. 

Some 502 practices have closed or merged since 2015, with an estimated 350,000 patients uprooted in the past year alone. 

An investigation found 99 surgeries closed their doors last year – up from just 18 in 2013. 

Experts said the closures were hitting the most vulnerable hardest with many, often elderly patients, facing long journeys to be seen by a family doctor. 

A worrying investigation has found 99 surgeries closed their doors last year – up from just 18 in 2013 (file picture)

GP leaders blamed a national shortage of family doctors, increasing workloads and lack of investment. 

Rising numbers of clinicians are ‘burning out’ and leaving the profession early without being replaced. 

Closures can affect neighbouring surgeries, which then have to take on thousands more patients, often when they are already oversubscribed. 

This can both increase waiting times for patients and lead more GPs to quit. 

Professor Martin Marshall, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said closures were indicative of the pressures many were now under. 

He said some were the result of mergers in a bid to pool resources, but others will be due to unsustainable staff and workload issues that can lead to burnout. 

The high numbers of closures, which have spiralled in recent years, could be particularly damaging this winter as primary care grapples with coronavirus and the biggest ever winter flu jab programme. 

Prof Marshall said: ‘General practice is currently under intense strain due to increasing workload but falling numbers of fully-trained, full-time equivalent GPs over the last few years.’ 

Without substantial investment in general practice, further closures will follow, he warned. 

GP leaders blamed a national shortage of family doctors, increasing workloads and lack of investment on surgeries being closed or being forced to merge (file picture)

Information on clinics that have shut was obtained by Pulse magazine through freedom of information requests to clinical commissioning groups, health trusts in England, as well as health boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The rate of closures has slowed slightly, down from a peak of 138 affecting 519,000 patients last year. 

But it is still a considerable increase on the 18 in 2013. The data suggests London alone had 18 closures last year, hitting 61,000 patients. 

Dr Michelle Drage of Londonwide Local Medical Committees – a body representing doctors in the capital – said coronavirus had added to pressures. 

‘Throughout this time we have consistently found that a third of practices are carrying GP vacancies and two fifths have impending retirements,’ she said. 

Latest figures from NHS Digital show the number of fulltime GPs in England continues to fall. 

In the year to June it dropped by 651, from 28,256 to 27,605. 

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘While this represents a very small proportion of practices, in some cases surgeries have merged with a nearby practice and in other cases a partner may have retired.’

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