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Half of London practices have staff vacancies with one-in-three to close, survey finds

15 July 2016

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Over 1.4 million Londoners could see their GP surgery close in the next three years, according to a local medical committee (LMC) survey.

A survey of 628 practices in the Londonwide LMCs found that only 70% of surgeries said they are not intending to terminate their NHS contract in the next three years.

Meanwhile, 3% said they are planning to terminate their contract in the next three years, while 13% said they did not know and 15% said they were not ruling out the possibility that they would terminate their contract.

These proportions cover 1,421,273 people who could be left to find a new GP practice.

The survey also looked at GP vacancies and retirement, which revealed that 49% of responding practices, with a combined patient list of 2,688,018, have a vacancy for a member of staff.

Over a third of practices said their vacancy was for a GP, while 43% said they had an upcoming vacancy as their GP plans to retire in the next three years.

However, 22% said they have a current vacancy as well as a GP planning on retiring in the next three years. This will affect 1,241,002 registered patients.

Most practices (39%) said they are compensating for the vacancy by hiring an additional locum or agency staff.

Other practices said they were considering employing a pharmacist (17%) or reducing services (15%).

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, warns that general practice in London is in a state of emergency.

Drage said: “Half of London’s general practices are short a key member of staff, over a third are missing at least one GP.

“Whilst the remaining GPs, practice nurses and their teams are working flat out to fill in the gaps, they’re at breaking point and need help to deal with the growing complexity of London’s health needs.

“Without increased support, the future of community general practice looks decidedly gloomy: delivering current service with fewer staff is unsustainable and unsafe in the long term, let alone stretching to an extended seven day services.

“The Government’s promised influx of 5,000 new GPs has already been watered down and seems less and less likely with every day that passes. As we near October 2016, the point at which the NHS’ Five Year Forward View aspired to stabilise funding for general practice, the situation is still dire.

“The Forward View claimed to tackle retention and recruitment and introduce stability, but with our survey showing more GPs leaving the profession month on month; increasing vacancies for GPs and key staff across every part of the Capital; and a steady rise in the number of practice closures, it is clear the plan is not working.

“Our general practices are the backbone of the NHS – providing for 90% of patients’ needs on a paltry 8% of its budget – and falling. To secure the future of general practice for the citizens of London we need more resource and more support. And we need it now, before it is too late.”

They survey was conducted by ComRes for Londonwide LMCs. Londonwide LMCs represents 27 local medical committees and 1,317 GP practices.