Almost 3% of GP practices have closed or merged in past 15 months

Nearly 3% of GP practices in England have closed or merged in the past 15 months, official NHS data suggest.

The total number of practices listed in official NHS data on patient populations has fallen by 40 since January, analysis suggests.

A total of 7,492 GP practices are listed in data published this week by NHS Digital, compared with 7,532 listed in data published at the start of 2017.

Since January 2016, the total number of practices listed has dropped by 221 - meaning around 3% of practices in England have either closed or merged over that 15-month period.

BMA leaders have warned that closures are at 'record levels' and the latest figures suggest that the trend is continuing as GPs wait for government pledges of investment through the GP Forward View to take effect.

GP investment

The BMA warned last month that the government's decision to maintain the 1% cap on NHS pay increases in 2017/18 would fuel GP practice closures.

GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul has also made clear that general practice will remain billions of pounds short of the funding it needs to maintain services, even once GP Forward View plans to hike investment by £2.4bn a year by 2020/21.

Health minister David Mowat pledged in November that 1,000 practices would receive support in the current financial year from a £16m tranche of the GP resilience fund that CCGs must spend by the end of March. But since the GP Forward View was launched in April 2016, GPs have repeatedly warned that support is not coming through fast enough.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said earlier this year that the rate of closures and mergers among GP practices were 'yet more evidence of the crisis facing general practice right around the country'.

'Every closure will impact on groups of patients who will worry about the loss of the relationship they had with their GP,' Dr Vautrey told GPonline. 'There is now all the more urgency to invest in general practice and deal with unsafe workload levels.'

GP practice closures

GPonline warned in November that 5m patients in England could be forced to look for a new practice because one in 10 GPs said their practice was at risk of being forced to close over the coming year.

GPonline investigation published last summer revealed that one in 20 GP practice contracts in England had been terminated since 2013. The findings showed that 140 contracts ended because of practice closures in the three years to March 2016, while 264 contracts were terminated because of a merger. A further 26 contracts were terminated and reprocured under a new provider.

The DH announced plans earlier this year to incentivise every practice in England to join a 'primary care network' covering up to 50,000 patients. Practices will not be forced to merge or close to form the larger groups - previously described as 'superhubs' by Mr Mowat.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in