A spate of practice closures is scheduled for the next few weeks across the country, meaning thousands of patients will be displaced.
A 10,000-patient practice in Manchester is set to shut, with other closures happening in Suffolk, London and Halifax, Yorkshire, where four practices are set to close.
Practice closures have been increasing year-on-year, with almost 150 closing in 2018 – compared with 18 in 2013.
The current closures are mainly as a result of staffing issues, but the four in Halifax are due to the CCG deciding not to renew their APMS contracts – which has left neighbouring practices to pick up the displaced patients.
York House, in Heywood, Manchester, which is also home to a foodbank and provides care for 10,000 patients, will close down in March as it has struggled to permanently fill vacancies for two years after three GPs retired and one stepped down for personal reasons.
This has also coincided with other staff being off sick or on bereavement leave. Another GP was also set to go on maternity leave.
Absences have meant that it would be ‘unsafe’ for the practice to continue providing care, NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale CCG said. The number of clinical sessions it provided fell from 62 to 42 per week as a result of the shortage.
Practice manager Pam Ilnyckyj described the situation as being a ‘crisis’. The ‘national shortage of GPs has led to difficulty in recruiting permanent doctors,’ she said.
The surgery has been forced to rely on locums, but they have been in short supply as well.
The practice will not close its list but will instead redirect its patients to Argyle Street Medical Centre, which is a local surgery run by the same group.
This move will ‘alleviate the pressure of staffing,’ according to the CCG. The practice closure will also mean the foodbank will need to find a new home.
In Halifax, Meadow Dale Group Practice’s sites in Sowerby Bridge, Ovenden and Elland will all close, as will a branch of the Park and Calder Community Practice, with NHS Calderdale CCG set to register patients elsewhere.
The CCG ran a consultation in November after stating the practices weren’t ‘good value for money’.
NHS Calderdale CCG chair Dr Steven Cleasby said: ‘We will write again to all affected households with more information on today’s decision and where appropriate let people know which new GP practice we have registered them with.
‘If anyone is unhappy with the practice we match them with, they are free to choose to register with another GP practice that serves their area.’
In Felixstowe, Suffolk GP Federation has decided to end its contract to run Walton Surgery, citing difficulties with staffing. NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG were unable to secure another provider to take over, and prior to the closure planned for 31 March, Walton Surgery’s 4,300 patients will be advised of which of three alternative surgeries in the town they have been allocated, on the premise of their postcode.
Ed Garratt, chief officer of NHS Ipswich & East Suffolk CCG, said: ‘Whilst I know that not everyone will be happy with these new arrangements, I wholeheartedly believe this is the safest and best option for patients given the situation we find ourselves in.’
Meanwhile, Romford’s Mungo Park Surgery will shut its doors on 31 March, as its sole GP, Dr Sickan Subramaniam, is retiring. NHS Havering CCG explored ‘a number of options’ to maintain a GP presence at South Hornchurch Health Centre, but its small patient list size made finding a new contract provider impossible. Therefore, some of its 3,200 patients risk travelling four miles to replacement premises.
A spokesperson stated: ‘We are therefore supporting patients to register at neighbouring GP practices so they are able to access the care they need. There are seven practices within 1.5 miles of Mungo Park Surgery, all of which are accepting new patients, and a further nine practices within four miles.’
Elsewhere, Brighton is facing further challenges within its provision of general practice. According to reports, a higher than average proportion of the city’s GPs are planning to retire in the next five to ten years. This follows 13 practice closures since 2015 in Brighton and Hove.