A BBC investigation has revealed that a growing number of GP practices in England are closing their doors to new patients due to a lack of resources.
A Freedom of Information request made by the BBC revealed that more than 100 GP surgeries across the country applied to stop accepting new patient applications in 2014/2015 because they don’t have the staff to cope with increased demand for services.
The British Medical Association warned of an increasingly worrying situation, where some surgeries are close to “breaking point” because they cannot recruit enough staff members to cope with additional patients.
Researchers found that at the beginning of November last year, almost 300 surgeries were not accepting new patients according to the NHS Choices websites, which is designed to help people find health services in their local area.
In response to the reports, NHS England has confirmed an additional investment of £15,000,000 to increase staff numbers and added that any applications to close lists are considered carefully to take both the safety of doctors and patients into consideration.
Chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, Dr Chaand Nagpul, said that unfortunately some surgeries find themselves in a situation where there is no other choice but to close the doors because they cannot recruit a sufficient number of doctors to protect patient safety.
The investigation also revealed that some GP practices have resorted to offering doctors ‘golden hello’ bonuses of up to £10,000 to attract new members of staff.
Chair of Birmingham Local Medical Committee, Dr Robert Morley, said that practices should be able to make the decision to close their lists temporarily without the permission of NHS England.
A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Information Centre, which runs the NHS Choices website, said it is important to treat any figures with caution, as there is a good chance that many practices have not updated their numbers and status recently.
According to MIAB, an insurer that helps to provide practices with locum cover, doctors are increasingly prone to stress and depression. These factors are the third most common reason for GP absence, after maternity and bereavement. NHS England has stated it is in the process of drawing up a new job specification for health workers. This aims to incorporate measures supporting doctors on an ongoing basis and work with the organisation to develop measures to reduce the number of doctors affected by stress and exhaustion.