Ageing Doctors Putting Surgeries At Risk

543 GP Surgeries May Be Forced To Close In The Next 12 Months Due To The Age Of Their Doctors

03.10.2014

The increasing age of many doctors in the UK is causing concern, as it has been revealed that a significant number of GP surgeries may be at risk of closing, unless younger, equally-qualified replacements are found.

However, if practices are forced to close, this leads to concerns regarding the health and safety of patients.

Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Dr Maureen Baker spoke to BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the issues, explaining: "We do have a workforce crisis in general practice.

"We've been losing GPs, we are losing GPs and we're not recruiting enough doctors into the profession."

Figures published by the RCGP show that of the 8,000 doctors' surgeries currently open in the UK, 543 could be forced to shut within the next year.

At each of these practices, more than 90 per cent of GPs are aged 60 and over, suggesting they are set to retire in the near future.

More than 1,000 doctors are expected to be leaving the profession each year by 2022 - a figure that raises significant concerns, as the number of unfilled GP vacancies has risen from 2.1 per cent in 2010 to 7.9 per cent in 2013.

This is a particularly prevalent issue in the north-west, where there are 63.4 doctors per 100,000 people, while in the north-east there are 63.6 for the same population.

In London, it has been predicted that approximately 22 per cent of doctors could step down from their posts within the next five years, as currently, 41 per cent of the capital's GPs are aged 50 and above.

The issue was debated yesterday (Thursday October 2nd) at the RCGP conference, with Dr Baker saying: "Every practice closed is a loss to a local community.


"Not only do patients lose out, but it piles more pressure on neighbouring practices, swelling patient lists already bursting at the seams."

Expert Opinion
The report that so many local surgeries are at risk of closure due to a lack of young doctors willing to take on the role of a GP is extremely troubling. It is vital patients have the opportunity to access treatment in their local area, as this can ensure quick diagnosis and treatment, while also reducing the burden on hospitals.

“Patient care should always be a top priority and it is crucial more is done to attract high-quality doctors into GP surgeries to ensure local people are able to access care of the highest possible standard. We have seen all too often the damage the lack of access to GPs can have, as patients are unable to receive the treatment they require, which can lead to further complications and reduce the likelihood of a speedy recovery from illness."
Mandy Luckman, Partner