Increase in GP practice closures highlights workload and workforce pressures facing general practice, says RCGP
Publication date: 30 April 2021
Responding to new data from Pulse that shows nearly 800 GP practices have closed in the last 8 years, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said the following.
“That nearly 800 GP practices have closed over the last eight years – almost 100 in the last year during the pandemic – is a concern and likely to be distressing for the millions of patients who have lost the practice they are familiar with. Some of the closures will be due to practices merging, or working in different ways, but some practices will have had no choice but to close due to intense workforce and workload pressures – and this must be addressed urgently.
“General practice was dealing with unsustainable workload, and practices were struggling to recruit sufficient numbers of GPs and practice staff to handle it, before the pandemic. The pandemic has only exacerbated these pressures. This has resulted in GPs feeling burnt out and leaving the profession before they planned to and has forced some practices to close for good.
“The latest data from NHS Digital shows that GPs and their teams are working harder than ever, with 5m more consultations delivered in March than February – and more than 2.25m more in March this year than in 2019 before the pandemic. They are at the forefront of helping communities recover from the pandemic, caring for patients whose physical and mental health has been directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19 – and are playing a leading role in the COVID vaccination programme, with 75% of vaccines administered in primary care in England.
“Closing a practice will be a difficult decision for any GP who has to make it. The decision will have implications for the patients the practice serves and colleagues at neighbouring practices. It is a decision that will only be made as a last resort.
“This is why the intense resource and workforce pressures facing GPs and our teams need addressing urgently. We need to see initiatives in place to prevent GPs from burning out, as well as further efforts to recruit doctors to the profession and keep existing, experienced GPs on the frontline. We need to be able to manage the increasing workload pressures facing the profession, and keep practices open, so we can continue to deliver the high-quality care and access to services that our patients rely on us for.”
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Notes to editor
The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.