Rise in ‘super-size’ GP surgeries as quarter of practices now deal with over 10,000 patients

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

New figures reveal the rise of the “supersize” GP surgery, amid the closure of almost 700 practices in five years, The Telegraph reports.

Family doctors said they were being forced to handle far more cases than they could cope with, with one in four practices now seeing more than 10,000 patients.

The proportion of surgeries with such list sizes has risen by 27% since 2013, the NHS data shows.

It follows admissions from the Health Secretary that the traditional family doctor role has been eroded by decades of underfunding.

Jeremy Hunt told a conference on Thursday that the “magic” of general practice was under threat, with GPs burned out and left feeling “stuck on a hamster wheel” with up to 40 patients to see daily.

The statistics from NHS Digital show that 28 per cent of GP practices in England have a list size of at least 10,000 patients – including some with more than 20,000 cases on their books.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said family doctors were left overloaded, and too often unable to meet the needs of their patients.

She said: “The phenomenon of growing patient numbers, and a lack of GPs to deal with growing demand is a long-running trend, and something the College has been drawing attention to for many years.

“As a result, many GP practices are seeing escalating patient lists they they simply can’t deal with – although we must recognise that sometimes increasing list numbers are due to practices merging and pooling their resources,” she said.

Prof Stokes-Lampard said there was a desperate need for more GPs and practice staff.

Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chairman said doctors were struggling to cope with an extra 2.6 million patients registering in the last four years, while funding and staffing levels had not kept pace.

“GP services are struggling to cope with unsustainable workload and deliver the care their local communities need,” he said.

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A recent BMA survey found that more than half of GP practices were considering closing their patient lists as they could no longer provide safe care to the public.

The figures show the total number of practices registered with a GP has risen from 56.2m to 58.7m in five years. Meanwhile the number of practices fell from 8,032 to 7,358.

Of those, 2,082 have more than 10,000 patients on their books – including 157 with more than 20,000 patients.

On Thursday Mr Hunt said many GPs were at the ‘end of their tether’ and dropping out of the profession. He said: “Too many of the GPs I meet are knackered, they are often feeling at the end of their tether.

“They feel that they’re on a hamster wheel of 10 minute appointments, 30 to 40 every day, seem never ending.

“They don’t feel able to give the care that they would like to to their patients and increasing numbers of them are choosing to work part-time and at worst to leave the profession.

“We have to think really hard about how to stop that happening if we’re going to use the magic of general practice to do what we need it to do for the NHS.”

Ministers have pledge to increase the total number of GPs by 5,000 by 2020. But since the manifesto promise was made in 2015, numbers have fallen.

In March, a junior health minister revealed plans to enroll surgeries into  1,500 “superhubs” in a bid to  expand opening times.

David Mowat told MPs: “We are finding that things are working better with GP practices being put into hubs of 35,000 to 40,000 people. “They are able to employ pharmacists and physios and do more things at scale than they could as a single GP practice or as a practice of two or three GPs, which has historically been the norm.”

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