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Practices exposed to GP closures in their area see less funding per patient

by Beth Gault
20 March 2023

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GP practices that have seen surgery closures in their area can suffer cuts in per patient funding and reduced patient satisfaction, a study has shown.

The study, published in the BJGP, found that practices that have 10% of their patient list coming from other practices that have closed, have seen £2.37 less funding per patient.

Authors looked at 6,192 practices in both rural and urban areas in England that had been affected by practice closures between 2016 and 2019.

They worked out an estimated figure for how many patients had been affected by closure per practice. This came to an average of 3% across the practices included in the study, ranging from none to 78%.

The researchers more closely analysed practices that had a 10% increase in practice population due to closures and the impact on their funding, QOF scores, workforce figures and patient satisfaction scores. 

It found that these practices ended up with 4.3% (86.9) more patients per full-time equivalent GP and a decline in patient satisfaction scores.

However, that there was ‘no significant difference’ in QOF scores and they had an increase in staff members proportionate to the increase in patients.

The authors said: ‘Surviving practices are at risk of relative decline in funding, GP supply and patient satisfaction. Therefore, closures may make providing care in these practices more challenging, increasing the risk of supply-demand imbalance and associated access issues.

‘Alternatively, given QOF remains stable, findings may indicate efficiency improvements; but declines in satisfaction contradicts this.’

They added that closures are more common among practices serving deprived and ethnic minority  populations, which may result in widening inequalities.

‘Practices and commissioners may be able to mitigate for the consequences of closures through policy changes, such as preventing the closure or increasing resources for surviving practices. However, there is currently minimal evidence on how best to intervene,’ the researchers said.

The researchers also called for further study into workforce outcomes by role, as this study only used broad workforce figures.