An investigation by Pulse has revealed that the number of GP surgery closures reached record levels in 2018.
Figures obtained by Pulse under the Freedom of Information Act showed that almost 140 surgeries closed last year, more than in any previous year and almost eight times the number seen in 2013. In addition, provisional data revealed 12 more closures in the first month of 2019, compared with eight at the same time the previous year.
Figures released by NHS Digital last week provide further evidence of the manpower crisis in general practice. The official figures show that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs increased by 312 (0.9%) to 34,736 in March 2019 compared to March 2018. However, the number of fully qualified GPs decreased by 441 (1.5%) over the same period. Almost 30 per cent of fully qualified GPs are aged 55 or older.
Commenting on the Pulse investigation, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said the figures are sad but, unfortunately, not surprising.
“GPs and our teams are working to our absolute limits to provide safe, high-quality care, while general practice is under intense pressure, and this is resulting in some GPs leaving the profession, and in other cases forcing them to close their surgery doors,” Professor Stokes-Lampard said.
"Further closures must be avoided wherever possible. That's why we need to see the promises made in the NHS Long-Term Plan delivered as a matter of urgency, to ensure general practice has the people, resources, and investment we desperately need to continue providing world-class patient care, both now and in the future."