Safety concerns drive GP practices to consider list closure

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GP practices in England would consider suspending new patient registrations to alleviate work pressures, a new survey shows.

Results from the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP survey reveal that more than half (54%) of respondents would temporarily prevent new patients joining practices, and just under half (44%) would be in favour of applying for permanent list closures.

These measures are being considered amid concerns about the risk to existing patient safety should new patients join their practices.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘That practice-list closures on a wide scale are even being considered is an indication of just how pressurised general practice is at the moment – and how downtrodden GPs and our teams across the country are feeling.’

She continued: ‘No practice would ever consider closing their list to new patients if they were not seriously concerned about their ability to cope with their increasing workload and deliver care to patients safely.’

A total of 1,870 practices responded to the BMA’s survey, representing 24% of England’s GP practices.

NHS England previously announced plans to recruit at least 2,000 doctors in the next 3 years and provide general practice with an extra £2.4 billion to ease pressures on GPs. But Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GPs Committee Chair, expressed concerns that GPs have yet to benefit from these measures.

He said: ‘The fact that even a single surgery has reached the point where it would consider a suspension of new patient registration or closing its patient list fully shows that government promises to rescue GP services have failed to materialize.

‘Despite the hard work of GPs, nurses and practice staff, many GP practices are struggling to cope with the rising number of patients coming through their doors because of a lack of necessary funding and widespread staff shortages.’

In response to survey findings, the BMA is calling on the government to urgently address the ‘growing crisis’ in workload, recruitment, and funding.