Most GP practices 'operating on the edge of viability', warns BMA

GP practices face a growing risk of collapse unless the government and NHS England take decisive action to support them, the BMA has warned.

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood: practices on the edge (Photo: Wilde Fry)
Dr Mark Sanford-Wood: practices on the edge (Photo: Wilde Fry)

GPC executive committee member Dr Mark Sanford-Wood warned that 'the current funding settlement in general practice means most practices are operating on the edge of viability'.

The BMA has warned repeatedly that even with the rise in funding for general practice promised under the GP Forward View, general practice will remain around £3.4bn short of the share of NHS funding it needs by 2020/21.

GPonline reported earlier this year that the share of NHS England funding that will go to general practice was set to fall to just 7.1% in 2018/19.

Dr Sanford-Wood said that 'unless more is done by the government and NHS England – which includes addressing the severe recruitment and retention crisis', practices would increasingly be at risk of collapse.

GP shortage

Discussing strain on GP services in Plymouth, where a CQC report earlier this year identified a shortage of 25 full-time GPs across 32 GP practices, the Devon GP told BBC Radio Four's Today programme on Monday: 'NHS England has a very simple choice: it either provides extra funding so that we can keep the service running, or they don’t and the service collapses.'

GPonline reported last summer on concerns that services across Plymouth were at risk of becoming unviable when four partners at a practice serving 22,000 patients in the city were forced to hand back their contracts.

One of the former partners, Dr Rachel Tyler, told the BBC that before she handed her contract back pressure was so intense that she had to complete CQC paperwork from an oncology ward where she was herself undergoing cancer treatment.

GPs at the practice came under intense personal financial pressure, she warned. Dr Tyler said: 'We could have quite feasibly been homeless. All of us [former partners] have our own properties –we’ve got children – and we could have been left personally bankrupt.'

Commenting on the BBC report on Plymouth, Dr Sanford-Wood added: 'The situation in Plymouth may be particularly intense, but it should be seen as a warning of what the rest of the country faces without urgent action to address the pressures in general practice.

"Patients are already facing unacceptable waits as doctors face unmanageable and potentially unsafe workloads, while increasingly burdensome administrative tasks mean GPs are able to spend less time on the front line delivering care to those who need it.'

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