Practice mergers or closures affect 500,000 patients in just six months

GP practices serving more than 500,000 patients closed or merged in the six months to January 2018, data from NHS England reveal.

GP practice closures (Photo: iStock)
GP practice closures (Photo: iStock)

Over the six-month period from July 2017 to January 2018 the total number of GP practices in England fell by 133, analysis by GPonline reveals.

Data published by NHS Digital do not show how many of these practices closed and how many merged with another practice, but a total of 534,452 patients were registered in July 2017 with practices that no longer appear in data for January 2018. The total number of GP practices listed in England is now 7,278, down from 7,411 six months ago.

The reduction in GP practice numbers has seen the average list size of GP practices in England climb above 8,000 patients for the first time, rising to 8,095.

The latest data take the total number of patients affected by GP practice closures and mergers since NHS England took shape in April 2013 to more than 3m.

Map: practice closures

Changes in practice numbers were fairly evenly spread across England, with 1.7% of practices affected in London, the north of England and the Midlands and east of England regions, and 2.2% in the south of England.

Some individual CCGs saw as many as one in eight of their practices affected by closures or mergers within the six-month period.

GPonline revealed last month that two thirds of GP partners in England felt their practice was less financially secure now than a year earlier. GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said at the time that 'GPs and practices across the country' were struggling.

'This is why so many practices are left faced with handing back their contract,' he said. 'It follows a decade of underfunding and even the investment we have secured in the last couple of years is not yet enough to reverse this.

'With inflation now over 3% the situation will only get worse if practices don’t receive the necessary funding increase in the coming year to cover rapidly rising expenses.'

In October 2017, GPonline reported that more than a quarter of GPs feared their practice could fold within the next five years.

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