GP closure timebomb warning by leaders
MORE than a quarter of GPs surgeries in West Lancashire are at risk of closure in the next five years, health leaders have warned.
The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) warned of a potentially “catastrophic” effect of patient care due to the high numbers of GPs at risk of leaving the profession.
The group is calling for an additional £2.5bn a year to be invested in general practice by 2020/21, arguing drastic action must be taken to address the workload pressures that are making a career in general practice untenable.
Without urgent investment, the RCGP said it fears that 762 practices in the UK could close over the next five years because they are relying on a workforce where three-quarters of GPs are aged 55 or more and are therefore approaching retirement age.
According to the RCGP, 28% of GP surgeries in West Lancashire could close in the next five years – the fourth highest proportion of anywhere in the UK.
Also in the top 10 at risk areas are: Chorley and South Ribble (eighth, 23%) and Wigan Borough (tenth, 21%)
RCGP chairwoman Prof Helen StokesLampard said: “These new figures paint an extremely bleak picture of the scale of the GP workforce crisis right across the UK.
“GPs will always work their hardest to try to keep practices open but the harsh reality is that fantastic, caring GPs are burning out, working in conditions that are unsafe for their own health and that of their patients.
“Workload in general practice is escalating, both in volume and complexity, yet the share of the NHS budget general practice receives is less than it was a decade ago – and our workforce is actually decreasing.
“As a result, many GPs are bringing forward their retirement plans because the pressures they are working under are untenable.’’
Prof Stokes-Lampard added: “It is a massive loss to the profession – and patients – to lose our most experienced doctors prematurely when they have huge amounts of knowledge and skill.
“If these GPs do leave, and these practices do close, it will have a catastrophic impact on our profession and the patient care we are able to provide. We have more GPs in training than ever before, but if we have more GPs leaving than entering the profession, we’re fighting a losing battle.”
She said the college wants to see the extra funding come as part of the forthcoming long-term plan for the NHS, announced by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year.
“Decision-makers need to think long and hard about how we can retain the GP workforce, and the forthcoming long-term plan for the NHS – funded by the extra £20.5bn a year announced earlier this year – is the ideal opportunity to do so,” the professor added.
“We have seen some positive and innovative schemes as part of the GP Forward View in England, such as the GP Career Plus scheme, but we need much more of this kind of thing, and on a bigger scale.
“Being a GP can be the best job in the world but only if general practice is properly resourced and provided with the adequate funding and resources to ensure we can deliver the highest quality care to our patients.”