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British Medical Association's chiefs' fears over deepening GP crisis

Medical chiefs today have warned the GP crisis is deepening, with a surgery in Folkestone with 4,500 patients forced to close its doors this week.

The British Medical Association's (BMA) warning comes as seven in eight GP practices in the town applied to close their lists to new patients due to safety concerns.

The closure of the Folkestone East surgery in Dover Road is a result of severe funding and recruitment problems leaving the practice unable to meet demand.

Folkestone East Family Practice
Folkestone East Family Practice

It includes a large number of vulnerable patients in an area with significant levels of deprivation.

Concern is mounting for the 4,500 patients who face disruption to their care as they are forced to find a new doctor.

Neighbouring practices have already said they are unable to accept new patients over fears they will be unable to provide a safe level of care.

Commenting on the closure, BMA GP committee chair, Dr Richard Vautrey, said: "The closure of this surgery shows just how desperate the situation has become, as funding and recruitment problems have left many practices in the area unable to cope.

"Large numbers of patients now face disruption to their care as other local practices that are already at or over capacity will struggle to take on new patients.

“With nine in ten practices telling us their workloads are unmanageable and a third of GP partners³ unable to fill vacancies, the situation is not confined to Folkestone."

The practice will be closing
The practice will be closing

He hit out at the government's recent promise of increased funding and recruitment drives as 'nowhere near enough to resolve the crisis.'

"Urgent action is needed now to alleviate pressures, support struggling practices and ensure patient care is not disrupted by further closures," he added.

Dr Vanessa Goodall, a partner at Folkestone East, lifted the lid on problems surgeries face in recruiting new doctors and vented concern for her patients.

She said: “It was an incredibly difficult decision for us to have to make, but the ever increasing work load and retirement of two senior partners and loss of a part-time doctor put us in an impossible situation.

"Despite advertising for over a year both in the UK and abroad we had not a single applicant.

"Ultimately, the decision to close was made based on patient safety.

“My concern now is for the patients who are being force allocated to local practices that are already full to capacity and facing exactly the same issues as ourselves with spiraling workloads, reduced resources and services and lack of GPs.

“We constantly hear about the crisis facing A&E and other front line services?. But this crisis is being faced by every GP in every surgery every day the length and breadth of Britain.”

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