London GPs at 'breaking point' as a third of practices consider closing

General practice in London is at 'breaking point' GP leaders have warned after a poll found that almost a third of practices in the capital are either planning to terminate their contract or considering the move.

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage
Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage

The survey of 628 practices by Londonwide LMCs found that 3% of practices, covering 88,000 patients, planned to terminate their contract to provide NHS services in the next three years. A further 13% of practices said they were considering ending their NHS contract within the next three years, while 15% refused to rule out terminating their contract.

Just 70% of practices said they do not intend to terminate their NHS contract in the next three years.

The ComRes Londonwide LMCs Workforce Survey also found that more than a third of practices in the capital have a GP vacancy and half have vacancies for other members of staff.

Some 37% of London practices had a vacancy for a doctor, 43% had a GP planning to retire in the next three years, and 22% had both a GP vacancy and a doctor planning to retire soon. Half of all London practices (49%) said they had a vacancy for a member of staff.

Londonwide LMCs chief executive Dr Michelle Drage said that while GPs and their teams were working hard to plug the gaps left by unfilled vacancies, practices were ‘at breaking point’.

‘Without increased support, the future of community general practice looks decidedly gloomy: delivering current service with fewer staff is unsustainable and unsafe in the long term, let alone stretching to an extended seven day services,’ she said.

Dr Drage said that government attempts to address the crisis in general practice were failing.

‘The Forward View claimed to tackle retention and recruitment and introduce stability, but with our survey showing more GPs leaving the profession month on month; increasing vacancies for GPs and key staff across every part of the capital; and a steady rise in the number of practice closures, it is clear the plan is not working.

‘The government’s promised influx of 5,000 new GPs has already been watered down and seems less and less likely with every day that passes. As we near October 2016, the point at which the NHS Five Year Forward View aspired to stabilise funding for general practice, the situation is still dire.’

She said it was essential that extra funding and support was provided to general practice as soon as possible.

‘Our general practices are the backbone of the NHS - providing for 90% of patients' needs on a paltry 8% of its budget - and falling. To secure the future of general practice for the citizens of London we need more resource and more support. And we need it now, before it is too late.’

The Londonwide LMCs survey also asked GPs how they plan to tackle the problem of unfilled vacancies.

Some 15% said they were considering reducing services; 5% said they were considering closing; 39% said they were considering employing extra locum or agency staff; 31% were considering succession planning; and 17% were considering employing a pharmacist.

Earlier this year Londonwide LMCs declared a 'state of emergency' for general practice in the capital, and called on practices to 'push back' against non-core demand.

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