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Raft of new practice closures could see over 40,000 patients losing their GP

by Beth Gault
14 November 2018

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Some 40,000 patients could lose their GP as several practices are set to close across the UK, mainly as a result of recruitment issues.
Two practices in south west Wales and one in south London are due to close by early 2019 as GPs retire without replacement. A further four practices are under review in County Durham and one in East London due to the same issue.
Coulsdon Medical Practice in south London is due to cease operation on 26 October, meaning 3,700 patients will need to find another GP practice, while Teifi Surgery in Llandysul, south west Wales, is set to close in January, leaving 6,000 patients without a GP.
Ashleigh Surgery in Cardigan, south west Wales, plans to shut its doors at the end of February when its two GPs retire.
The Cardigan practice, which has a patient list size of around 4,000, almost closed in 2016 after it failed to attract a new GP. However, one of the GPs decided to stay on beyond retirement and the practice was able to hire a long-term locum for a period of time.
In County Durham, four practices run by Skerne Medical Group are under review after resignations, retirements and sickness will have created a 40% reduction in GP appointment time by February 2019.
The group, which currently provides services at Harbinson House, Fishburn Surgery, Trimdon Colliery Surgery and Trimdon Village Surgery, announced on its website that it would be reviewing whether it could keep two of its practices open from January 2019.
The statement said the ‘preferred option’ following the review would be to reduce services from four surgeries to two in the short to medium term. However in the long term, it would reduce that again to just one site.
The notice on the group’s website said: ‘The practice is also facing the challenge of significant housing development within its boundary, potentially increasing patient numbers further aggravating the current situation.
‘These additional pressures on the current GP workforce could potentially lead to further GP losses in resignation or sickness.’
The group, which has a total list size of just over 15,500, will be holding four public meetings to discuss the plans with patients in November as part of a six-week consultation.
West Ham Medical Practice in Newham, east London, is also facing closure as Dr Prasanta Bhowmik, due to retire on 30 November, has handed back his contract.
At a meeting of the NHS Newham CCG Primary Care Commissioning Committee meeting on 31 October, the decision was approved to close the 2,300-patient practice. This followed two consultation sessions with patients, which took place last month.
NHS Newham CCG told our sister publication Pulse that ‘after considering the points raised, the committee approved the CCG’s recommendation for a managed dispersal whereby patients will be allocated to another GP practice in the local area’.
It added that it would not have been viable for a new provider to take the practice on, as the patient list size has been falling and is low compared to the average in Newham, which is around 7,500.
A spokesperson said: ‘The CCG is now in the process of notifying patients and explaining the options available to them. Our priority is to ensure that all patients currently registered at the practice have continued access to high quality GP services.’
It comes as last month month, the 9,000-patient Northland Surgery in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, was forced to hand back its contract to the Health and Social Care Board after the resignation of its three remaining GPs.
The closures follow the RCGP’s warning that 762 practices could shut within the next five years because of numerous GPs approaching retirement.
The RCGP has written to the MPs in the worst affected areas to urge them to support additional funding for general practice.
RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said GPs were working to their ‘absolute limits’ under ‘some of the worst pressures in the history of the NHS’.
She said: ‘Any decision to close a practice will be a last resort after every other avenue has been explored and found to be unworkable…
‘Ultimately, no GP practice should feel forced to close their doors or radically change how they operate, which is why we need to see the tide turn on the pressures facing general practice as soon as possible.’
Meanwhile, a further 24,000 patients in England will be affected by GP practices merging by the end of 2018.
In Brighton, North Laine Medical Centre’s lease expires at the end of November, when it will merge with nearby St Peter’s Medical Centre. The two practices have a combined list size of just over 15,000.
However, both sites are currently regarded as ‘unfit for purpose’, according to Dr David Supple, clinical chair of Brighton and Hove CCG.
Proposals to build a new site to house the merged practice were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council on 11 October, which will see St Peter’s Medical Centre expand into a nearby car park.
Work on the new practice is set to start in March and is due to finish in 2020, but the St Peter’s premises will still continue to operate throughout the building work.
Meanwhile, the 9,000-patient Glenpark Medical Practice in Gateshead plans to close one of its sites, the Dunston Health Centre, in January.
Under proposals presented to the Gateshead Council on 15 October, the practice wants to merge to create one surgery, which will relocate to a new building once completed in December.
It is hoped the move will reduce costs by stopping the duplication of equipment and staff, and by moving from an old building to a new purpose-built one.
This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.