GP practices are reaching the point where closing their doors to new patients could be the “only viable way to ensure patient safety”, a leading Leeds medic has said.
But family doctors would only consider this action as a final recourse, according to the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee chairman Dr Richard Vautrey, who also works as a GP in Meanwood, Leeds.
Dr Vautrey has written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calling for a meeting to discuss the “urgent challenges” facing GPs.
These include rising indemnity costs, workload pressures and ensuring adequate funding reaches frontline services.
He highlighted a recent BMA poll which found that more than half of GP practices would consider closing their doors to new patients to offset mounting pressure on services.
The BMA survey of 1,870 GPs’ surgeries in England found 54 per cent (1,005) favoured temporarily suspending admissions to their practice lists.
This would allow them to focus on providing safe care to patients already signed up to their service, the BMA said.
More drastically, 44 per cent of the GPs surveyed (822) said they would consider applying to NHS England to halt new patient registration permanently.
Dr Vautrey wrote: “This clearly demonstrates the huge pressures facing general practice. GPs would only consider such action as a final recourse.
“We have, unfortunately, seen this borne out with recent announcements of practices having to close their lists.
“We are deeply concerned that this survey demonstrates practices are reaching the point where closing their lists seems the only viable way to ensure patient safety.”
He said the latest figures have shown a dip in the number of GPs as he called on the Government to tackle recruitment and retention in general practice.
He added that rising indemnity costs are “not just adding to the severe financial difficulties felt across primary care, but further exacerbating the existing primary care workforce crisis”.
Dr Vautrey said additional funding for GP services was “failing to reach frontline primary care services in a way that makes a tangible difference”.
He continued: “With unprecedented patient demand, a recruitment and retention crisis, huge workforce shortfalls and major practice premises problems, it is no wonder that GPs are having to consider action such as suspending their patient lists.”
Last month it emerged that seven of the eight GP practices in Folkestone, Kent, were planning to collectively close their doors to new patients amid safety concerns.
The practices said taking any more patients on would pose a risk to those who currently use their services.
Separately, the BMA said yesterday that new funding announced for out-of-hours indemnity costs is recognition of the pressures GPs will be under during the winter and will give doctors ‘some short-term confidence’.
NHS England revealed it had found £10m to help ‘strengthen’ out-of-hours GP services through financial support for indemnity costs, meaning more than 80,000 GP sessions will be able to take place in the next six months.
Dr Vautrey said the BMA had been pushing for the funding for ‘some time’ and had been concerned about the delayed announcement, but welcomed the news.