GP partner at surgery forced to close was earning less than a junior doctor

A GP left facing personal debt after his surgery was forced to close at the end of last year was taking home less pay than a junior doctor in recent years as he struggled to keep the practice going.

Warwickshire GP Dr Lars Grimstvedt said the 2,000-patient Studley Health Centre, which closed at the end of 2016, was a small village surgery that prided itself on offering continuity of care to local people.

But rising demand, underfunding, and PMS contract changes had eventually forced the practice to close as exhausted staff found themselves unable to cope, he told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme.

'We were spending longer seeing patients, working 12-hour days and it was just exhausting - you don't get on top of your workload,' said Dr Grimstvedt, who is now working elsewhere as a salaried GP.

GP funding

Falling funding and rising workload had left him struggling to maintain the surgery financially, he added. 'My take-home pay from the surgery in recent times has been less than a junior doctor's.

'I knew the kind of work I wanted to do was in a small village surgery like this, looking after pateints, but at some point you have to weigh up whether you can put bread on the table and pay the mortgage, or do a job that pays a reasonable amount more with less responsibility and we felt we can't keep going like this.

'We haven't had anything but positive comments from patients and sadness that they have lost the surgery. It is heartbreaking to see the effect these decisions have made, but I think if we had carried on much longer we would have got into some kind of difficulty. I wouldn't want to risk clinical safety or making a mistake or cutting my services down to a level where it was unsafe.'

Dr Grimstvedt's comments came as GP workforce data showed that GP numbers had fallen, and follow recent data on patient populations that suggest the number of practices in England has fallen by up to 181 over the past year.

GP workload

GPC workforce, education and training subcommitee chair Dr Krishna Kasaraneni told the programme that practices were being forced to close because funding had failed to keep pace with rising demand.

'Politicians are continuing to match funding to political cycles rather than need,' he warned. 'We need the investment now so that GPs can improve services for patients.'

He said that numbers of practices closing were 'difficult to pin down', but cited recent BMA polling that found eight in 10 GPs felt the level of service they are providing has deteriorated in the last year.

Dr Kasaraneni added that one in three practices have 'permanent vacancies which they cannot fill at all'. 'Depending on the situation, some will be looking to close practices and patients who are used to seeing their local GP will no longer be able to.'

Hazel Wright, a patient at the practice for several decades, told the programme she was angry at losing a practice whose doctors were well respected and caring.

A DH statement read out on the programme said highlighted the GP Forward View pledge to increase annual GP funding by £2.4bn by 2020, and to increase the GP workforce by 5,000.

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