It is estimated from new research that nearly six hundred surgeries have closed in the past six years due to the recruitment crisis within the NHS affecting almost two million patients.
138 surgeries shut down last year – compared with just 18 in 2013 (investigation carried out by the medical website Pulse)
The huge rise in closures is due to entire practices, branches and surgeries disappearing due to GP’s retiring without replacements or having to merge with other larger surgeries with many more set to follow throughout the rest of 2019.
The system is creaking as the smaller practices, which patients prefer and generally have better outcomes, are disappearing or being swallowed up by larger practices due to chronic under resourcing.
It is estimated that the NHS could be short of 7,000 GPs within five years unless the budget for the training and development of staff rises by at least £900m as figures released by NHS Digital earlier this week showed that the number of full-time GPs fell by 441 in the 12 months up to March 2019. It is fair to say that the intake for student doctors has flat lined, as have the numbers taking up nursing since the abolition of the bursaries.
Here in Wirral the CCG are once again proposing to close all the walk in centres and build a UTC (urgent treatment centre) on the site of Arrow Park Hospital. (Previously the funding for the build was unsecured, but it will now, I believe, be paid for by Wirral University Teaching Hospital.)
Given this information on the current status of GP surgeries and the difficulty in replacing retiring GP’s, the lack of funding and training of new GP’s and the time it takes to qualify is this the best way forward for Wirral.
The closure of our walk in centres will only exacerbate the problems facing Wirral patients. There are many areas of Wirral where the Arrow park site is not easily accessible via public transport and there are already parking problems. There is the issue of wanting to see your own GP when you have a long time illness and continuity of care is paramount, not only to our ageing population but to sufferers of many debilitating conditions which prohibit such lengthy travel. There will also, in my opinion, be an extra burden on the ambulance service which is also struggling to cope with the present situation and will not welcome the added strain pushing waiting times to higher and higher levels.