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Will The Last One Out Please Turn Off The Lights?
I was shocked to learn this week that about 60 practices across the UK are facing imminent closure due to issues over funding and recruiting staff. Following on from my recent blogs about lack of funding to maintain premises, GP recruitment problems and staff morale, it’s very sad, but not really surprising to hear that some Practices are giving up their contracts altogether.
Pulse recently surveyed 25 local GP leaders from across the UK, and found that 60 practices were either notifying their patients about their closure or were in talks about relinquishing their contract. Ninety nine Practices have already closed since 2010. Leaders of local medical committees (LMCs) or GPC representatives said they were fighting to keep practices open, but were facing a ‘slow train crash’. They also cited the ‘domino effect’ that would occur if practices were allowed to close and large numbers of patients had to be reallocated to other neighbouring practices.
Are we ready yet to provide more local services?
There appears to be particular problems in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Wales. Spiralling running costs, lack of additional income and an inability to recruit are having a massive impact on GP practices, and the inadequate support and funding over the last few years is all coming home to roost unfortunately. There is also the issue of cutting back on hospital services and for patient care to be delivered locally. I believe it’s a good idea, but many community services aren’t ready for this step, and the impact it will have on GP practices could be phenomenal in some areas.
Survival of the fittest
Over the next few months we will wait anxiously to see if the BMA & RCGP campaigns will make any progress in reversing what may seem to some as the conscious destabilisation of General Practice. For some practices, particularly rural practices, the only solution appears to be merging with another local practice to pool resources and stay afloat. With countless patients reporting having difficulties in getting an appointment to see their GP the pressure of patient demand is also adding to the stress for many practices, but waiting will become the norm.