GP crisis leaves 1m London patients at risk of losing practice

Almost 1m patients across London could lose their GP practice within three years, LMC leaders have warned.

Of 644 practices surveyed by Londonwide LMCs, 128 said they could not rule out handing back their contract as pressures on the service mount.

Chief executive of Londonwide Dr Michelle Drage said: ‘Hero GPs are working flat out to cover the gaps, but they’re at breaking point and need real support to keep caring for our growing city, and the growing complexity of its health needs.

‘With junior doctors increasingly reluctant to take on the challenges of general practice, and many leaving the country in the face of the new contracting debacle, London's general practice future looks decidedly gloomy, delivering current service with fewer staff is unsustainable and unsafe in the long term. Let alone for extended seven-day services,' added Dr Drage.

GP vacancies

The survey of 664 practices in London, carried out by ComRes for Londonwide LMCs, found:

  • 49% said they currently have a staff vacancy.
  • 31% say they have at least one GP vacancy.
  • 50 practices have at least one unfilled GP partner position.
  • On average GP posts are vacant for over eight months after a doctor leaves.
  • 44% of GP practices (284) said they currently have GPs planning to retire in the next three years.
  • 19 practices said they are planning to terminate their contract to provide GP services in the next three years, covering an estimated 116,491 patients.
  • 109 practices, covering an estimated 802,383 patients, do not know if their practice has plans to terminate its GP contract in the next three years.
  • 37% of practices are considering employing additional locum staff to help manage current and future vacancies.
  • 13% are considering reducing services.
  • 4% are considering closure.
  • Combined, 39 practices are either planning to terminate their contract in the next three years or are considering closure to manage current or future vacancies. Kensington and Chelsea and Barnet are the worst affected boroughs, and could stand to lose five and four practices respectively.

Dr Drage said: ‘Until financial stability is secured and the low morale of existing staff is improved there is little prospect of the junior doctors currently coming through the ranks being the saviours. The oft-quoted influx of 5,000 new GPs seem less and less likely with every day that passes.

‘Our general practices are the hub 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.’

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