Scores of GP surgeries in London are under threat of closure, potentially displacing hundreds of thousands of “refugee patients”, because of a growingshortage of family doctors, research shows.
Up to 140 of the capital’s 1,400 GP practices could shut over the next three years, leaving fewer surgeries looking after increasing numbers of patients, according to a survey by Londonwide local medical committees.
The closures are stark fresh evidence of the escalating shrinkage of GP practices across England as a whole. NHS figures show that 656 surgeries have been merged, taken over or closed completely since 2010.
The trend has sparked concern that patients will lose their longstanding relationships with their GP and have to find a new surgery and travel further for an appointment.
Of 431 surgeries polled, 43 (10%) said they were considering handing back their contract to NHS England within the next three years because a GP colleague was due to retire during that time. If the same proportion was replicated across the 909 other surgeries that did not respond, almost 140 could shut.
In all, 302 of the 431 practices said that at least one of their doctors is due to retire by 2018 and 53% are already trying to recruit a GP or practice nurse.
Increasing workload, financial problems, the growing complexity of patients’ illnesses and the pressure to work ever longer hours are also prompting more GPs to retire. That raises serious doubt about David Cameron’s key post-election pledges to hire 5,000 more family doctors and let patients see a GP between 8am and 8pm seven days a week by 2020.