MORE than half a million patients had to find a new GP last year as surgery closures rocketed.
A study found the shortage means many must now travel long distances for appointments.
GP surgery closures have soared by nearly 700 per cent in five years, a study reveals.
A record 138 were shut last year, affecting an estimated 519,500 patients.
They had to find new doctors, with many forced to trek miles to see one. GPs say stress from mounting workloads has pushed colleagues to retire early.
Health bosses have also failed to find replacements for short-staffed surgeries.
Data from 186 of 217 health boards after freedom of information requests revealed the figure of 138 for last year.
That was up from 134 closures in 2017 — and just 18 in 2013.
SURGERY CLOSURES ROCKET
Small practices with just one doctor were most likely to shut, GP magazine Pulse found.
It can pile pressure on surrounding practices as patients scramble to find a new NHS GP.
Watchdogs fear patient health may be at risk as they miss out on crucial care. They also fear pressure on A&E departments.
Joyce Robins, of Patient Concern, said: “Closures are disastrous for patients, who are left terrified they will be left without a GP.
Qualified GPs fall
THE number of fully qualified GPs in England fell by 494 over the past year, figures show.
There were 38,685 working at the end of March — down 1.3 per cent in a year.
Ministers pledged to boost GP numbers by 5,000 from 2014 to 2020 but later scrapped the target.
The total number of GPs in England rose by 350 last year to 44,847 but 6,162 are not fully qualified.
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“Some elderly and vulnerable people will find it impossible to get the bus miles across town to a new location and new GP.”
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said doctors were working to their “absolute limits” to provide care.
NHS England is set to invest £13million in its programme to help practices in 2019/20.
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