Almost three million patients see their GP practice shut or merge


early three million patients have seen their GP practice close down or merge in the past five years, figures show.

Analysis by Labour found that 2.8 million patients had been forced to find a new GP as a result of their local surgery closing down.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said practices are “shutting up shop across the country”, leaving some patients travelling “miles to be seen”.

Labour have pledged to train 15,000 doctors a year and double the number of medical school places to address a growing workforce crisis. The party said it would fund the proposals by abolishing the non-dom tax status.

In London, more than 337,000 patients have been affected by the closure of their GP practice in the past five years, according to figures obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

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More than 119,000 patients were impacted in North West London – the highest total of any region in the capital.

Patients having to change their GPs means they are less likely to see a family doctor who knows their medical history.

GPs are also grappling with record levels of demand, with 10 per cent more appointments delivered in February compared to before the pandemic. A report released by the Health Foundation last month found that family doctors in the UK were under “extreme strain” and have the highest stress levels compared with GPs in other high income countries.

Meanwhile, over half of patients (52 per cent) say they have found it difficult to make an appointment with a GP, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

More than a third (37 per cent) felt they had waited too long for a GP appointment while 30 per cent experienced difficulty contacting their GP practice.

Mr Streeting said: “Patients are finding it impossible to get a GP appointment when they need one, thanks to the Conservatives failure to train enough doctors.

“Practices are shutting up shop across the country, leaving people to travel miles to be seen, and GPs overburdened.

“Labour will train 15,000 doctors a year so patients can be seen on time again, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status. We will bring back the family doctor and ensure patients can easily book appointments to see the doctor they want, in the manner they choose.”

Labour also pledged to bring back the family doctor and guarantee face-to-face appointments to all who want them, so patients can book appointments to see the doctor of their choice, in the manner they want.

Last month, the Standard reported how the number of full-time GPs working in the NHS in London has dropped by nearly 100 in a year.

Data published by NHS Digital shows that there 98 fewer permanent family doctors working in the London region at the end of February – a decline of about 2.3 per cent on the year before.

All GP statistics are based on the number of full-time equivalent posts in the workforce, not including trainees or locums.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’re making real progress in getting patients to see their GP quickly with almost two million more GP appointments delivered when compared to this time last year – that’s 100,000 more appointments each working day.

“We’re also boosting the GP workforce, with hundreds more doctors in general practice than last year, record numbers in training and we have almost reached our target of delivering 26,000 additional primary care staff to support GPs and patients, including pharmacists and physiotherapists.

“We will set out details of further support soon, through our primary care recovery plan and our long-term workforce plan.”

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