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202 GP practices have closed or merged between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017, a new report finds.
The report, Patients registered at a GP practice July 2017; Special Topic - Practices which have opened or closed within the last year, was published by NHS Digital and shows how many GP practices have opened, closed or merged in England over the past year.
It found that 8 GP practices opened in the timeframe and 52.7 per cent Clinical Commissioning Groups had no practice closures or mergers.
The data for the publication is extracted each month as a snapshot in time from the GP Payments system.
Responding to the figures, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s not clear with these figures why practices have closed – some may have merged, and others may have closed as a result of working ‘at scale’, which can bring benefits for patients through pooling resources to provide additional services or better appointment access.
“But this won’t always be the case and when practices are being forced to close because GPs and their teams can no longer cope with ever-growing patient demand without the necessary funding and resources, it’s a huge problem. And when practices are being forced to lock up and hand back the keys to their surgery because they can’t recruit enough GPs or practice staff, it will have severe consequences for our patients and the wider NHS.
“GP practices are the lifeblood of our local communities so the complete closure of any practice will always be a last resort when all other options have proved unworkable.
“More research into why practices are closing would be really useful – but ultimately, we need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View, including £2.4 billion extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs by 2020, to be implemented in full and as a matter of urgency.”