Every GP surgery in a town is planning to close their lists to new patients, claiming they are unsafe.
All seven practices in Folkestone, Kent – which cover 16,000 patients – have applied to NHS bosses to suspend new registrations indefinitely.
The move comes a week after almost half of GPs in England said they were prepared to close their lists on mass in protest against a lack of Government funding.
The doctors’ union, the British Medical Association, is now considering whether to call on all doctors to suspend their lists.
Surgeries in Folkestone have applied to close their lists independently as they are collectively short of 16 GPs and cannot cope with the rising demand, Pulse magazine reported.
All seven practices in Folkestone, Kent – which cover 16,000 patients – have applied to NHS bosses to suspend new registrations indefinitely
Pressures intensified in May when they were ordered to take on an extra 4,700 patients from the nearby Folkestone East Family Practice, which closed due to a shortage of doctors.
Officials at the local health board, South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group, will consider the cases of all seven practices. If they believe patient safety would be jeopardised, the applications would be approved.
This would mean any new patients moving to the area would be unable to register with a local GP. They would have to travel to surrounding towns or villages – assuming practices there have not also closed their lists.
Is there a crisis?
GPs across England say they are in crisis due to the rising demand of the ageing population and a national shortage of family doctors.
They are also angry at the Government for failing to invest enough money in surgeries – while expecting them to open for longer hours at evenings and weekends.
NHS TO PAY £100M TO RECRUIT GPS
The NHS will pay agencies up to £100 million to recruit GPs from abroad in a bid to tackle the growing staffing crisis as the seven-day working week comes into force.
They will be paid £20,000 for every doctor found. An estimated 5,000 is needed by 2020, with up to 3,000 coming from overseas.
It comes as part of a drive to increase the number of family doctors after a leading medic declared general practice is on the ‘brink of collapse’ due to increasing workloads and a dwindling workforce.
The health secretary’s promise to have doctors available every day of the week has placed further pressure on staffing numbers.
Initially, plans had been put in place to recruit just 500 doctors from abroad by 2020/21, but this was expanded last week. International recruitment is hoped to begin in the autumn.
The British Medical Association said the situation in Folkestone was a reflection of what was happening across the country.
Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the union’s GP committee said: ‘This crisis in Folkestone highlights why four out of ten GP practices in England told the BMA in a survey only last week that they were considering applying to have their practice lists closed because their services are at breaking point.
‘Many GP services across the country are being put under unsustainable pressure from rising patient demand, falling funding and staff shortages that are stopping them from providing safe, effective care, including enough appointments, to their local communities.
‘It is unacceptable that even one surgery should be being placed in the position of having to close their practice list.
‘We need politicians to realise that general practice needs an urgent, immediate plan to invest more resources into frontline patient services as we cannot allow GP services to slide further into crisis.’
Don’t close your lists!
Last week Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned doctors against closing their lists due to the impact on patients.
But these seven practices claim they have been highlighting the pressures in their area for the past year to local NHS managers and their MP.
They include Central Surgery, Guildhall Street Surgery, Hawkinge and Elham Surgery, Manor Clinic, The New Surgery, Park Farm Surgery and Sandgate Road Surgery,
They issued a joint statement which stated they ‘have taken the unprecedented action of applying to South Kent Coast CCG for formal list closure in order to maintain safe patient care to their current patient population’.
It added: ‘We all feel that as a consequence of the national GP shortage which has been acutely felt in Folkestone, with a shortage of 16 full time equivalent GPs we have no other option in the interest of patient safety.’