Thousands of patients have had to move doctors in the last year due to the widespread closure of GP practices in England, shocking new statistics reveal.
Some 202 practices were closed or merged with another surgery in England during the 12 months until June.
Just eight new practices opened over the same period, even as the number of people registered with a GP increased by 760,000.
The data, released by NHS Digital, does not differentiate between practices that have merged and those that have shut.
However with hundreds of GPs leaving the NHS or retiring each year, many are likely to have closed.
Each of the country’s 7,400 GP surgeries has an average of 8,000 patients, meaning that if only half of the 202 practices closed, 800,000 people will have lost their surgery during the last year.
Doctors are warning that general practice services are at breaking point and that GPs are shutting their doors and leaving the profession because of the stress.
Doctors in Unite chair, Dr David Wrigley, said, “The fact is that general practice in the UK is not an attractive proposition for doctors anymore. The workload is unsustainable, there is rising patient demand, resources have been cut to the bone and there are chronic staff shortages.
“The government will never be able to recruit and retain enough doctors unless it addresses these issues. Only then will the NHS keep more of its hardworking GPs who are having to give up their careers due to crushing workloads and inadequate resources.”
In an attempt to solve the GP crisis the NHS is launching a global recruitment drive for 2,000 more doctors from the EU and countries such as Australia and New Zealand, it was announced this week.
The Tories have promised to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, however it is predicted that they will fail to deliver.
“The NHS couldn’t function without the valuable contribution of overseas staff and that includes the many overseas GPs who have served communities across the country for decades,” said Dr Wrigley.
“This announcement, however, is simply an admission that the government cannot meet its target of recruiting an extra 5,000 GPs without desperately scrambling to bring in doctors from abroad.
“The government is going to have to reconsider its stance it if wants its short term solution of hiring more doctors from the EU to work. At present there is too much uncertainty about the rights and freedoms of EU citizens in Britain post-Brexit – something government must end as soon as possible,” commented Wrigley.
Attracting nurses from the continent to work in the NHS has also been affected by the Brexit vote, as well as Theresa May’s use of EU citizens as bargaining chips in the run up to the negotiations.
The number of nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK has slumped by 96 per cent since the Brexit referendum last June.
Figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council released after a Freedom of Information request, show that just 46 EU nurses applied to work in the UK in April.
In July 2016, one month after the referendum, 1,304 EU nurses applied to work in Britain, falling to 344 two months later.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said nursing across the UK faced ‘a perfect storm of negative factors’ that threatened the future of the professions.
“The fact that in England there is an estimated shortage of 30,000 nurses is not helped by years of harsh pay restraint in the public sector and the ending of nursing bursaries (in August),” Carpenter said.
“We want people to join the nursing profession, but that is not going to happen in the numbers required, unless the government takes constructive steps to stop taking our dedicated and hardworking nurses for granted.
She added, “For starters, the government needs to scrap its plan to end nursing bursaries and replace them with ruinous student loans. It also needs to make a commitment to generously increase NHS pay and funding for 2018/2019.”