As many as 474 GP practices have closed in the last nine years in the UK with the greatest proportion found in deprived areas, a major investigation has found.
Led by our sister title Pulse, the investigation examined for the first time the number of GP surgeries that have closed for good, the reasons behind the closures and the effect on the 1.5m patients that have been displaced.
It revealed that the median deprivation decile score in the 474 permanently closed practices across the UK is lower than the median score for all practices: at 3.81 to 4.41 (where 1 is most deprived and 10 is least deprived).
GPs in practices in deprived practices say their workload is higher, and their patient population is less prone to self-care but they also miss out on funding that practices in more affluent areas receive.
Pulse’s Lost Practices investigation also found that:
- 474 surgeries closed in the UK since 2013, leaving 1.5m patients having to travel miles in some cases to new surgeries
- For more than 40% of the 162 surgeries which had identified triggers, recruitment issues were the final straw for the practice
- These surgeries had markedly smaller list sizes than average – a median list size of 2,738, compared with a median list size of 7,904 in England in 2020-21
- 69% of practices that closed for good in England received lower funding per patient the last full financial year before they closed than the average funding for that financial year
- A number of surgeries have closed with no other surgery within miles.
Professor Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘The impact a practice closing on its patients and neighbouring practices can be considerable. As such, a decision to close a practice will be one of the most difficult a GP partner can make. There may be many reasons for a practice to close, in some instances it maybe that it is merging with another in order to pool resources, but when the reason for closing a practice is workload pressures, and not being able to fill vacancies, then this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
‘General practice is the bedrock of the NHS with GPs and our teams making the vast majority of patient contacts and in turn alleviating pressures across the service, including in A&E. It works by providing cost-effective care close to home in patients’ communities. But it is a service that is struggling and it needs support. We don’t want to see patients having to travel for miles to be able to receive GP care.
‘This is why the College is calling on the Government for a new recruitment and retention strategy that goes beyond the 6,000 more GPs pledged in its manifesto, plus investment in our IT systems and steps to cut bureaucracy so that we can deliver safe, high-quality care for our patients.’
Pulse will be running findings from its investigation throughout the week on its dedicated section.