Practices across the UK are being pushed beyond breaking point as recent figures show a further increase in patients registering at practices already struggling to cope. Some medical professionals are now calling for a one-off registration payment to be charged to new patients as a means to alleviate some of the drain on resources this dramatic upsurge continues to cause.
There was of course a time when practices would see a growing list size as something purely positive, but today GPs are being forced to consider closing lists in the wake of these steep rises. Needless to say, the issue with recruitment and retention remains. One GP practice – Kingskerswell and Ipplepen Medical Practice in Devon – has been told by NHS England to stop emailing its patients advising them to visit alternative NHS providers as a means of alleviating some of the ‘great pressure’ faced by the practice.
Between April 2013 and October this year, the number of registered patients in Tower Hamlets alone rose by a staggering 17,584. This represents an average 488 more patients per practice in the East London Borough – one that has already been vocal about the pressure it remains under to service the needs of its ever-growing and underprivileged public.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG experienced an increase of 239 extra patients per practice, and Brent in North West London enrolled an extra 181 patients during the 18 month period. Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG in Kent also shouldered a high uptake of new patients during the period, with an average 231 extra joining each practice, and Milton Keynes registered 7,055 new patients during the same period. North Manchester, Newcastle North and East, Bedfordshire, Sandwell and West Birmingham, and Nottingham City are all other areas that have experienced extremely high numbers of new patients registering from April 2013 to October 2014.
Dr Tony Grewal, Londonwide LMC’s medical director claims that, ‘in London, the average patient will use as much practice resource in their first year after registering as for the whole of the rest of their time registered with that practice.’
‘It would make sense for this to be recognised, ideally as a new patient registration payment.’
Dr Michael Parks of Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley is concerned that this pattern of rapid growth is only going to accelerate, which, ‘may become a problem for health services locally in the future, and not just primary care.’
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey believes that more core funding must be made available to help general practices cope with these growing demands: ‘we have a growing population across the country, but the relative NHS funding for general practice has been cut, rather than increased, so it’s no surprise practices are under so much strain,’ he said.
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