More than half of practices would consider list closure

CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica

Unsustainable pressures are forcing up to half of GP practices in England to consider closing their lists to new patients and the government must take urgent action to address the current crisis that is “threatening to overwhelm GP services”, GP leaders have warned.

OnMedica reports that the BMA has said that GP practices are now so concerned about the lack of resources to support patient care, many have already suspended their lists to maintain safety – and more than four in 10 practices are even considering formal, permanent list closure.

The BMA conducted a survey of 7,824 practices in England, to examine the effect of funding, workload and staffing pressures on new patient registrations – and this morning it revealed its findings. It reported that of the 1,870 practices that responded (a 24% response rate):

  • 1,005 (54%) said they would consider temporarily suspending new patient registration so they could focus on delivering safe care to patients already on their practice list; and
  • 822 (44%) said they would consider applying for a formal and permanent list closure from NHS England.

Chair of the BMA’s GP committee Dr Richard Vautrey said: “The fact that even a single surgery has reached the point where it would consider a suspension of new patient registration or closing its patient list fully shows that government promises to rescue GP services have failed to materialise.

“Despite the hard work of GPs, nurses and practice staff, many GP practices are struggling to cope with the rising number of patients coming through their doors because of a lack of necessary funding and widespread staff shortages.”

He pointed out that in previous surveys, a third of GP practices have told the BMA they have had vacancies that have gone unfilled for 12 months, and nine out of 10 have said their workload is often unmanageable.

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He said: “This is placing an intolerable pressure on local GP services, especially as they increasingly need to deliver intensive, specialist care in the community to the growing number of older patients with complex health conditions. In recent years, some GP practices under considerable pressure have already taken the step of suspending their practice list in order to maintain patient safety.”

Dr Vautrey called on the government to do far more to address the current crisis. He warned: “The government needs to understand that this landmark survey sounds a clear warning signal from GPs that cannot be ignored, and that the workload, recruitment and funding crisis in general practice must be addressed with far more vigour and commitment.

Practices believe the promises in the GP Forward View which pledged to provide more resources to frontline patient care have failed to make an impact. The BMA is now calling on ministers to work with us to urgently to address this growing crisis which is threatening to overwhelm general practice. We cannot allow a situation where patient safety is being compromised by a lack of political action.”

Meanwhile, Health Education England today launched a short film to encourage pre-registration student nurses to consider general practice nursing as a career, as well as those nurses who want to transition into general practice from other areas. HEE made the film, which shows the depth and breadth of activities with which a general practice nurse can be involved in a regular day, as part of the General Practice Nursing Workforce Development Plan.

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