Nearly 500 GP practices have permanently shut in the last decade without being replaced, according to stark figures unearthed in an investigation.
It means almost 1.5million people have been forced to travel further afield to seek treatment because new surgeries haven’t opened in their postcode area.
The research also shows that traditional family doctor-patient relationship is being lost because the average practice that shut treated fewer people in the vicinity.
Doctors’ magazine Pulse found 474 surgeries have closed in the UK since 2013, without being replaced. It means almost 1.5million people have been forced to travel further afield to seek treatment because new surgeries haven’t opened in their postcode area (stock image)
A snapshot of 162 found retirement, resignations and problems recruiting were the final blow for 42 per cent of closures.
Earlier this year, analysis found half of England’s small GP surgeries had closed in the past decade, but this is the first to look at whether they were replaced.
While some areas might have gained a GP surgery in their wider local area, Pulse said new practices open much less often than existing ones close.
The new investigation found the average surgery lost since 2013 had an average patient list of 2,738 people, whereas practices today typically have more than 9,000 on their books.
The research also shows that traditional family doctor-patient relationship is being lost because the average practice that shut treated fewer people in the vicinity (stock image)
Small surgeries are among the most popular, according to patient satisfaction surveys.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘At many of these practices, patients will have built strong and important relationships with their family doctor over many years.
‘The loss of their practices will mean patients having to travel to see a new GP, and may push more patients towards A&E, which is under severe pressure itself.’
A NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS has invested record amounts in general practice this year, alongside the number of staff increasing by 18,000 since 2019, well ahead of the Government’s target.’
Electric fleet ‘will free up ambulances’
The NHS is bringing in a fleet of electric vehicles to relieve pressure on ambulances.
Eight ambulance trusts are trialling 21 zero-emission vehicles, with six dedicated to responding to mental health callouts.
The mental health vehicles will differ in design to traditional ambulances, with fewer fluorescent markings and a much less clinical interior to put patients at ease.
Other green fleet vehicles include those to take patients to high dependency units.
It is part of a £2.1million investment as the NHS moves towards reaching net zero by 2040.
James Cook, director of primary and community care improvement at NHS England, said: ‘These vehicles will change the way we deliver care in the community – helping us see more patients whilst reducing demand on traditional double-crewed ambulances [and] the NHS meet its green ambitions.’