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19th September 2014

Fiddle while Rome burns

Fiddle while Rome burnsIt’s getting worse

In a blog a couple of months ago, Will the last one out please turn off the lights?, I wrote about practices across the UK giving up their contracts and some facing imminent closure due to issues over funding and failure to recruit staff. Sadly it seems that there is no light at the end of the tunnel considering more than 500 GP practices have closed since 2010, with almost half of them closing in the last couple of years. It appears the Government isn’t listening to practices or their patients and are fiddling while Rome burns.

Pulse’s campaign to stop GP practice closures

GP magazine Pulse is the latest to create a campaign to ask the Department of Health to stop the threatening wave of GP practices closing in the midst of funding shortages. There are areas in which potential closures are a particular problem, including London, Northamptonshire and Devon. Pulse editor Nigel Praities says: ‘This petition is for GPs, their patients and anyone who cares for the future of our health service. Without good GP services, there will be no NHS.’

Patients could be put at risk

This is a rapidly growing crisis and patients could be put at risk. Some of these closures are due to practice mergers and only a handful of new practices are opening. If this situation continues to grow at such an alarming rate it will result in more and more patients struggling to find a local GP practice, and will mean that the remaining local practices will have to deal with the fallout, putting additional pressure on those practices too. The lack of adequate funding or investment in GP recruitment, and of the support that many practices desperately need, could be a disaster on a massive scale in a very short space of time.

Closures happen ‘all the time’

Shockingly NHS England has said that closures happen ‘all the time’ and they should be seen ‘in the context of local provision’. In a recent Pulse article GP leaders said that this showed a ‘worrying level of complacency’ from NHS England. An NHS England spokesperson says: ‘Practices close (and open) all the time and it should not be assumed that this is a problem or a reduction of service; it needs to be seen in the context of local provision… Examples of closures might include: closure of surgery or premises in order to move to a different, newer or shared facility; practice mergers to provide a broader range of services for a greater cohort of patients; death of a single handed practitioner.’

Have your say

If you or your patients haven’t already taken part in the BMA’s ‘Your GP cares’ campaign or the RCGP’s ‘Put Patients First’ campaign, then you can still join Pulse’s campaign to stop GP practice closures.

Alison Lowerson – QCS Expert GP Practice Manager Contributor

Topics: GPs

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