GP leaders have warned repeatedly that practice closures are at record levels, and the latest figures reveal the continuing steady fall in practice numbers - while average practice lists continue to increase.
On 1 July 2018 there were 7,148 GP practices in England, data from NHS Digital reveal, down from 7,411 a year earlier. The data do not differentiate between mergers and closures, but the BMA warned in June that general practice was 'at serious risk of collapse' as soaring workload and pressure on GPs took their toll.
In January this year, GPonline revealed that practice mergers or closures had affected 500,000 patients in the six-month period from 1 July 2017 to 1 January 2018. The BMA warned earlier this year that one in 10 GP practices could be forced to close by 2022.
The average practice list size has now risen to 8,279, compared with 7,893 a year ago. The latest average list size figure is a staggering 19% higher than the figure for five years ago, analysis by GPonline shows.
Speaking at the BMA's annual conference in Brighton, GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey warned that general practice was the 'foundation on which the NHS had been built', but that it had been taken for granted and was now under severe pressure.
However, a raft of major changes to general practice contracts and funding could be on the horizon, with NHS England board papers last month suggesting the GMS contract could be in line for its biggest overhaul since 2004.
NHS leaders are discussing the 'implications and opportunities' of plans to increase the NHS budget by £20.5bn by 2023/24. The ongoing GP partnership review, plans to scrap up to a quarter of QOF targets, an overhaul of the Carr-Hill formula that dictates practice funding, and a review of premises are likely to combine to drive significant reforms.