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GP practices close in record numbers – BBC News

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Record numbers of GP practices closed last year, forcing around 265,000 patients to move, data suggests.

A Freedom of Information request by Pulse magazine revealed 57 practices closed in 2016, with a further 34 shutting because of practice mergers.

The Royal College of GPs said doctors could no longer cope with growing patient demand without more funding.

NHS England said investment in general practice had increased by £1bn over two years.

The number of patients having to change surgeries was up by 150% from 2014, according to the data, and up 15% from 2015.

The figures also highlighted areas particularly affected, including Brighton, which saw seven practices close in the past two years, Pulse said. Four of the closures meant 9,000 patients had to find a new surgery.

‘Lifeblood of local communities’

In April 2016, NHS England announced an extra £16m for this year for a so-called “practice resilience programme”, with another £24m in subsequent years.

But Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said the needs of surgeries, both with funding and staff, were not being met.

“GP practices are the lifeblood of our local communities so the complete closure of any practice will always be a last resort when all other options have proved unworkable,” she said.

Prof Stokes-Lampard added that, while there may be funding available, practices needed to be able to get to it “without having to wade through convoluted red tape”.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, told Pulse that the money could make a difference, but blamed local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for stopping the cash getting to where it was needed.

“The tragedy is CCGs have not delivered their part in making the resource available,” he said.

“Many practices that should have received support have had none to date. That’s been a failing of local delivery.”

‘Greater range of services’

An NHS England spokesman said anyone wanting to register with a GP was guaranteed a place and funding had been increased.

“These figures as presented don’t reflect the full picture as they include patients whose records automatically transfer after a merger and therefore don’t have to change practice,” he said.

“As part of our plans to improve general practice services and boost the workforce, many practices are choosing to merge in order to offer patients a much greater range of services.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said more needed to be done to help GPs, which would, in turn, take the pressure off struggling hospitals.

“Tory ministers need to take urgent action to address this spike in GP practice closures and explain what they will do to make sure patients can easily and safely access the GP services they need,” he added.

Source: GP practices close in record numbers – BBC News