New figures indicate that the number of GP surgery closures hit a record level last year.
And the extent of practices becoming defunct forced over 250,000 NHS patients to seek alternative arrangements.
Data published by NHS England indicated that an alarming 57 surgeries were forced to close their doors permanently last year, while a further 34 were jettisoned due to mergers.
This resulted in around 255,000 patients changing their practice during the last 12 months alone; a massive 150% increase on figures from just three years ago.
NHS England had previously agreed £500 million of additional funding for struggling GP surgeries under the General Practice Forward View, but it seems that this figure has failed to satisfactorily address the situation in general practice.
Indeed, the Royal College of General Practitioners believes that the sustainability and transformation plans will result in a smaller number of GPs working within the NHS system, despite the fact that the government has already committed to recruiting 5,000 additional doctors by the end of the decade.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, commented that the existing situation is extremely serious.
“Unfortunately, too many practices are being forced to close because GPs and their teams can no longer cope with ever-growing patient demand without the necessary funding and workforce to deal with it.”
Negotiations between NHS England and the BMA had previously resulted in the implementation of a new GP funding formula designed to protect practices from financial instability.
But the implementation of this has been delayed until August 2018 at the earliest.
BMA deputy chair Dr David Wrigley believes that more must be done to prevent the closure of GP practices, labelling the current situation with surgeries as disgraceful.
“The closure of GP surgeries is a disgrace and is entirely due to this government’s desire to cut much-needed funding out of the NHS and see the service deteriorate and collapse. Of course, we continue to see big business making hefty profits from the NHS and Tory ministers moving into the boardroom once they have completed their time in office wrecking the NHS.”
And Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth was equally critical of government policy.
“The NHS funding squeeze is impacting on people every day in communities across the country. A government who knew how to manage the NHS properly would be getting a grip. But instead of leadership, we get incompetence. The government must take urgent action to address this spike in GP closures.”
Responding to the criticism, an NHS England spokesman suggested that the figures paint a misleading picture of the situation in general practice.
“All NHS patients wanting to register with a GP practice are guaranteed to be able to do so and we have increased investment in general practice by £1 billion in two years in order to improve services and boost GP numbers.”