London

Nearly one in 10 London GP practices 'could close in three years'

Generic image of doctor's consulting room
Image caption Kensington and Chelsea and Barnet are the worst affected boroughs, says the Londonwide Local Medical Committees

Nearly one in 10 GP practices in London could close within three years, a survey suggests.

The Londonwide Local Medical Committees (LLMC) claims 918,874 patients could be affected by the potential loss of 8.5% of London's surgeries.

It heard from 644 out of the 1,500 practices in the capital and found 128 were either planning on closing or were uncertain about their immediate future.

NHS England said every patient should have access to a general practice.

Out of 1,500 practices in London, the LLMC represents 1,330. GP surgeries are businesses with contracts to supply services to the NHS.

The survey, carried out on 23 November and 8 December last year, found 19 surgeries were planning to terminate their contract in the next three years and 109 did not know if their contract would last longer than three years.

Kensington and Chelsea and Barnet were the worst affected boroughs and could stand to lose five and four practices respectively, the survey commissioned from ComRes by the LLMC found.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive at the LLMC, said: "Hero GPs are working flat out to cover the gaps, but they are at breaking point and need real support to keep caring for our growing city and the growing complexity of its health needs."

Half of the surgeries asked said they currently had a staff vacancy and 31% had at least one GP vacancy.

On average, employed GP posts (a doctor on a salary from the practice) and partner posts (a joint owner of the surgery business) were found to be vacant for more than eight months after a doctor leaves.

A GP practice without any partners would have to terminate its contract as there would be no-one left to run the business.

Existing staff shortages were set to be exacerbated by planned retirements at many of the surgeries surveyed, the LLMC said.

It claimed barriers to recruiting included financial uncertainty about GPs' future, low morale, pay and a lack of suitable GPs.

A spokesperson for NHS England said it had begun an "ambitious" strategy to "transform primary care over the next three years" and had seen an increase in funding for such services, despite financial pressures.

She added: "London has also been allocated £1.5m of national funds to support the development of vulnerable GP practices."

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