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07.09.17

Half of GP leads considering closing patient registration

More than half of GP service leads in England would consider temporarily suspending new patient registration to focus on delivering safe care to patients already registered, a survey released today has revealed.

The BMA surveyed 1,870 GP practices in England to gauge whether funding, workload and staffing pressures were leading bosses to consider suspending new patient registration in order to protect safety.

The results showed that 54% would consider this, whilst 44% also added that they would be in favour of applying for a formal and permanent list closure from NHS England.

It shows that rapidly growing demand for services and understaffing in general practice could soon have a directly negative impact on patient safety as people will struggle to find a GP that is capable of accommodating new patients.

“The fact that even a single surgery has reached the point where it would consider a suspension of new patient registration or closing its patient list fully shows that government promises to rescue GP services have failed to materialise,” Dr Richard Vaultrey, BMA GP committee chair, stated.

“Despite the hard work of GPs, nurses and practice staff, many GP practices are struggling to cope with the rising number of patients coming through their doors because of a lack of necessary funding and widespread staff shortages.”

A third of GP practices also informed the BMA that they have vacancies that have gone unfilled for 12 months, whilst nine out of 10 have described their workload as often unmanageable.  

“This is placing an intolerable pressure on local GP services, especially as they increasingly need to deliver intensive, specialist care in the community to the growing number of older patients with complex health conditions,” Dr Vaultrey continued.

“In recent years some GP practices under considerable pressure have already taken the step of suspending their practice list in order to maintain patient safety.

“The government needs to understand that this landmark survey sounds a clear warning signal from GPs that cannot be ignored, and that the workload, recruitment and funding crisis in general practice must be addressed with far more vigour and commitment.”

The chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, argued that it was bad news that a measure as extreme as this was even being considered by doctors.

“No practice would ever consider closing their list to new patients if they were not seriously concerned about their ability to cope with their increasing workload and deliver care to patients safely,” she said.

“The RCGP has shown numerous times over the last few years that nowadays, UK family doctors making 60 patient contacts a day is commonplace – and that they are routinely working intensive 11-hour plus days in clinic.

“GPs who are fatigued are more likely to make mistakes – so these working conditions are potentially a risk to our patients’ safety.

“The results of this survey are a call for help,” she concluded. “We need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View – including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5,000 more full-time equivalent GPs – delivered in full, and as a matter of urgency.”

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