Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Briefing

Rights and responsibilities when a general practice closes

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 02 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4535
  1. Gareth Iacobucci, senior reporter
  1. The BMJ
  1. giacobucci{at}

Where can its patients go? Do neighbouring practices have to accept them? Gareth Iacobucci explores an increasingly common—and fractious—scenario

Why are we talking about practice closures?

The ongoing issue hit the headlines again at the end of September when, after being asked to accept patients from a neighbouring practice that closed, a group of GPs in Folkestone had their request to formally close their seven practice lists rejected.1

How big an issue is practice closure?

Two hundred and two GP surgeries in England closed or merged in 2016-17,2 a record number and a 120% increase from the 92 in 2015-16. An estimated 265 000 patients had to change practice in 2016, a 150% increase from 2014.3 Folkestone, which has reported a shortage of 16 full time equivalent GPs, is not an isolated example. Seven practices in Brighton and Hove have closed since February 2015, with an eighth due to shut its doors at the end of October.4 An estimated 33 500 patients …

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