Nearly 200 GP practices closed in 2016 alone, NHS data suggest

Up to 181 GP practices closed in the 12 months to January 2017, official data show.

Data on GP practice populations released by NHS Digital this month list just 7,532 GP practices - down 181 from the total a year earlier in January 2016.

Part of the drop in GP practice numbers in the NHS Digital data is likely to be driven by mergers, which could mean that some of the practice locations no longer listed in official figures remain open, but under the wing of a larger group.

However, BMA leaders have warned that closures are at 'record levels' and the latest figures suggest that the trend is not slowing down as GPs wait for government pledges of investment through the GP Forward View to take effect.

GP funding

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.

Responding to the latest figures, GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: 'This is yet more evidence of the crisis facing general practice right around the country and is a direct result of unsustainable and unsafe workload pressures, and failures to attract enough doctors in to general practice so that it's increasingly hard for practices to replace retiring GPs.

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

GP crisis

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.

A 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.

Photo: iStock

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