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CLOSEDMarch 7 2016

A tenth of general practices’ finances mean they could be facing closure, a BMA survey has suggested. With responses from 2,830 practices from across England, 294 said their practice’s financial viability was “weak - the practice is financially unsustainable.”

A further 610 (21.6%) said that while their financial viability was weak, they did have plans to improve viability. Only 5% reported that their finances were in a strong state.

The survey also found that:

  • 46% reported that they had GPs in their workforce who were either intending to retire (37%) or leave the UK (9%);
  • the North East (42%) and East Anglia (41%) have the highest levels of practices reporting GPs considering retirement;
  • the South (12%), the East Midlands (11%) and the South West (11%) record higher than average intentions of GPs planning to leave the UK.

“London had by far the worst figures for financial stability, with the highest level of GP practices concerned their services were unsustainable (14%), the largest proportion reporting their overall financial position was weak (41%) and the lowest number of GP practices reporting their situation as ‘strong’ (2%),” said the BMA.

The survey has been used to launch a new BMA initiative, the ‘Urgent Prescription for General Practice’. This has included sending every GP practice in England a package of materials, such as guidance on how to manage workload safely.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chair, said: “This survey provides further evidence of the state of emergency facing general practice. Almost half of GP practices are looking at the loss of part of their workforce at a time when there is a shortfall in new doctors entering general practice.

“As GP services struggle to replace existing staff who leave, it will inevitably make it more difficult to maintain current services to patients and particularly to offer enough appointments for them. Just as worrying, close to three hundred practices looking after tens of thousands of patients believe their financial future is unsustainable.”

He called on the government “to act urgently to deliver a comprehensive rescue package that safeguards GP services for patients. We cannot have a situation where thousands of patients are left without a local GP practice that can deliver the care they deserve.”

RCGP Chair Dr Maureen Baker said the survey echoed concerns the College has been raising through its ‘Put patients first: Back general practice’ campaign. “Relentless patient demand coupled with decreasing resources is a threat to our profession, and our patients’ safety,” she said.

“GPs are feeling this burden and are being driven to retire early or emigrate to practise in less stressful settings. Unless we can reverse this trend, GP surgeries will find it increasingly difficult to deliver safe patient care and in some instances, as we are already seeing, will be forced to close.”

Links:

BMA announcement

RCGP comment

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