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Many GP Practices Want To Shrink Their Catchment Areas

Shrinking GP Practice Catchment Areas Could Pose Problems For Patients


GP practices in the UK are increasingly struggling with their workload and the number of patients they have on their books, with many contacting NHS authorities to request a reduction of their boundaries.

Pulse Magazine used the Freedom of Information Act to request data from doctors' surgeries in 27 NHS England areas to find out how they are coping with rising pressure.

It was found that in the past six months alone, 26 practices have contacted authorities to see if they can shrink their boundaries so they don't have to take on more patients. Over the previous 12 months, a total of 30 such requests were made, suggesting this is becoming an increasing problem.

Furthermore, data shows that last year, 104 surgeries applied for permission to stop taking on new patients - a figure twice as high as that recorded two years earlier.

Not only does this raise issues regarding the workloads and pressure doctors are faced with, but it also leads to concerns about the health and safety of patients, as some may not be able to access a GP in their local area if catchment boundaries are reduced. In addition, people may have to travel further afield to seek treatment, meaning their lives could be placed at risk along the way.

However, doctors say they cannot offer a safe service in the first place if they are under too much pressure.

Chair of the Family Doctor Association Dr Peter Swinyard commented: "This is people just basically saying 'we are not coping and we can't cope with extra patients being forced on us'.

"[Doctors] are just finding a way of restricting their workload when they are completely overstretched and struggling to find the medical staff to look after the patients."

East London GP Dr George Farrelly echoed Dr Swinyard's views, stating: "We basically all feel beleaguered. The amount of work we have exceeds our capacity, we can't actually do the job properly."

Pulse Magazine found that NHS England approved just 15 of the boundary shrinking requests made last year, but has signed through ten since April 2014. Some practices are appealing against the authority's decision to deny their requests.

If you've experienced negligent treatment due to rushed or over-worked GPs you might be entitled to compensation. Visit our GP Negligence Claims page for more information.

Expert Opinion

It is very troubling to hear that so many GP practices have contacted local authorities in a bid to reduce their catchment area to cope with demand from patients. Patient care should always be a top priority, which means ensuring people have access to the care and treatment they need within their local area.

“We hope that these findings are investigated thoroughly and, where possible, measures are implemented to increase support for GP practices to ensure patients within the local area continue to access the care they need where they live.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner

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