A Doncaster family doctor’s practice has become the first in South Yorkshire to close its list to new patients – sparking a warning more will follow.
The Dunsville Practice, at Dunsville Medical Centre, has been given the all clear by the NHS to turn away new patients after it saw its number of doctors reduce from three to two, and then one of its GPs going on long term sickness.
The centre had informally closed its list to new patient registrations on advice of Doncaster’s Local Medical Committee in January, but has now been given permission by the Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Group’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee to keep its book closed until next May.
Now Dr Dean Eggitt, Doncaster Local Medical Committee Medical Secretary, has warned more family doctors will follow because of the pressure building across the borough.
He said the practice in Denaby closed last year.
Official documents presented to the clinical commissioning group’s governing body stated of the Dunsville Practice: “The practice has recently reduced from three GP partners to two GP partners. One of these partners is on long term sickness and has been since October 2016. There is no anticipated return date for the partner.
“The practice has also seen a steady increase in its list size over the last year with a total of 74 new patients.”
It has become the only practice in the whole of South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw to close its list.
There are four other GP practices within two miles of Dunsville Medical Centre – Hatfield Health Centre, the Kingthorne Group Practice branch site, in Kirk Sandall, St Vincent Medical Practice’s Hollybush branch site, in Edenthorpe, and Field Road Surgery’s Barnby Dun branch site.
The Village Practice, in Armthorpe, which is nearly three miles away, offered support to Dunsville Medical Centre, stating that they have capacity to support the practice and would be happy with the practice offering the option of registration at The Village Practice for their patients living within the DN3 postcode area.
Dr Niki Seddon, locality lead for the North West area, said currently it can be difficult to recruit GPs locally.
The news comes as the Ammersall Road practice in Scawthorpe revealed it is closing because of a GP shortage.
The practice serves 1,320 patients who will have the choice of attending other sites in Woodlands and Bentley.
The Primary Care Commissioning Committee has supported the planned closure and given approval for the practice to progress to consultation.
Doncaster Council will discuss the plans at a meeting on Monday.
Dr Eggitt said he was aware of the issues at Dunsville, and warned there would be similar closures elsewhere in the borough.
He said there was pressure in other areas of Doncaster where there were rising populations due to development, such as Rossington, Finningley and Auckley.
He said the closure to new patients at Dunsville would add to the pressure at other practices in the area.
He added the Denaby Practice at Church View has been closed since last Autumn after the doctor who ran it handed back the contract after two former colleagues retired.
The Denaby contract is currently being advertised.
Dr Eggitt said: “There are a number of potential flashpoints in the area.
“I can guarantee there will be more practices in Doncaster that have to close to new patients.
“We have a duty to safeguard our patients, and have to safeguard the quality of care that they receive.
“One way to do that is to close the list and conserve the quality. There are a lot of areas in Doncaster where doctors are under pressure.”
He added: “It is a national problem and it needs a national solution. It takes 10 years to take someone from being a medical student to becoming a GP.
“Nationally, we expect 30 per cent of GPs to retire in the next three years, and that is reflected in Doncaster.”
He said short term solutions would be for medical services to be carried out by people other than doctors, but there was also a shortages of nurses.
One solution which had been proposed by the Government was for ‘physician associates’, who could see patients but not prescribe.
Physician associates work under the direct supervision of a doctor and carry out many similar tasks, including patient examination, diagnosis and treatment.
He added: “This has been a problem for a couple of years, and it is coming to a head now. I guarantee there will be more having to do what they are doing in Dunsville.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group said: “A decision to close a list is a last resort and all avenues are explored to keep the list open prior to this decision being made. The Practice has recently temporarily closed its list to new patient registrations.
“We would like to reassure local residents that although a GP practice can apply to close their patient list, they would be supported by the CCG to make all efforts to keep it open in the first instance.”