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GP surgery closures rise eight-fold as system ‘creaks’ | UK News

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Almost two million patients have been affected by a huge rise in the number of GP surgeries closing down.

According to an investigation by the medical website Pulse, the shutting down of surgeries has risen almost eight-fold in the past six years, with 138 having disappeared in 2018 alone.

That compares to 2013 – when just 18 practices closed.

Doctors have warned of 'mayhem' in the coming weeks despite the improvement
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The NHS could reportedly be short of 7,000 GPs within five years without more investment

The dramatic rise in closures includes entire practices, branches and surgeries that disappeared due to a merger, with dozens more set to follow throughout the rest of 2019.

Provisional data seen by Pulse following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests revealed that 12 GP surgeries closed in January alone, compared with eight during the same period last year.

Dr Jackie Applebee, a GP who chairs the local medical committee in Tower Hamlets in London, said: “The system is creaking. The smaller practices – which patients prefer and which have good outcomes – are being lost because of the under-resourcing.”

Pulse has warned that the total number of closures since 2013 could be even higher than the 583 it has recorded, as some health bodies failed to respond to its FOI request.

An ongoing recruitment crisis has been blamed for the closures, with analysis by health think tanks earlier this year having suggested that the NHS could be short of 7,000 GPs within five years unless the budget for the training and development of staff rises by at least £900m.

Figures released by NHS Digital earlier this week showed that the number of full-time GPs fell by 441 in the 12 months up to March 2019.

Responding to the Pulse research, an NHS England spokesman said: “We continue to support all general practices to help them thrive.

“Thousands of practices continue to be helped through the GP resilience programme, where investment has been increased from a planned £8m in 2019-20 to £13m.”

NHS England is hopeful that a new five-year GP contract will stop the staffing slide. It is intended to expand the range of services that can be accessed via GPs and help ease rising pressure across the service.

The contract will see practices become part of larger groups through primary care networks, designed to reduce the need for mergers and serving between 30,000 and 50,000 patients.

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