It will be a very unhappy Christmas and New Year for many patients in Lincolnshire and Bristol when their GP practices are closed over the holiday period. The main reason is due to recruitment problems and a failure to fill salaried positions, leading to a dependency on locum doctors and the subsequent cost implications which that involves.
In Lincolnshire a total of four practices closed on December 16th, leaving 10,700 patients without immediate primary care. In the Knowles area of Bristol a 5,300 surgery is set to close in early January. The Bristol surgery was run by a neighboring practice which can no longer continue working two sites. NHS England has said that the patients will be registered with another practice before Christmas.
Tawhid Juneja, CEO of Primary Care Professionals says “We are only too aware of the problems for practices with hard to fill vacancies and the cost of depending on locums to temporarily solve the problem.
“It is becoming harder and harder for practices to recruit GPs for permanent salaried positions as an underfunded and overstretched primary care system offers no real incentive for a GP to take on a massive workload and all the responsibility involved in being part of a practice.
“To help to combat this problem we created an initiative whereby we offer Interim GPs, who will work in a practice for a minimum of six months and become an integrated part of the practice, giving patients much needed continuity of care. We understand that until we have many more GPs working full time in primary care it will remain hard for practices to manage their budgets if they have to rely on locums.”
The closure of the Bristol surgery is only two years after NHS England provided £100,000 to try and prevent the practice from having to close. An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘We are very much aware that primary care services in South Bristol are under pressure, and so the area as a whole will be receiving wider resilience funding to make services sustainable for the long term.’
GP leaders have demanded more immediate support, saying that NHS England’s GP Forward View via a revamped ‘resillience programme’ does not go far enough. It has even been rumoured that some NHS England managers have recommended that smaller practices should be left to fail and close.