Kingswood Health Centre at risk of closure due to lack of funding

Image of Kingswood Health Centre
Kingswood Health Centre treats about 13,000 patients in Bristol [BBC]

A doctors' surgery has written to patients to say it is at risk of closure because of a lack of funding.

Kingswood Health Centre in Bristol treats about 13,000 patients.

In a letter seen by the BBC, the practice said it had seen a 20% increase in patients compared to before the pandemic, which is putting additional pressure on its services.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it is "committed to improving access to GPs".

"We are now delivering 50 million more GP appointments per year.

"The most recent data shows GP funding increased in real terms by 19% between 2017/18 and 2021/22, and we recently announced our Pharmacy First scheme, which is backed by £645 million and aims to free up 10 million GP appointments per year.

"We are also investing £240 million on digital tools, telephony and training to ensure GP surgeries have what they need to improve access for patients", a spokesperson added.

The letter, written by the partners of Kingswood Health Centre, said: "We are worried and distressed about the current situation too and wish we could do more."

To help ease the increasing pressure, the surgery has advised patients to seek help from other NHS services in the first instance.

The centre said more patients are returning to their GP as hospital waiting lists increase, and it is unable to recruit additional staff to meet the demand or replace departing team members.

As a result, the surgery has warned that appointment wait times may increase, and it may take longer to respond to requests, medical reports, assessments and complaints.

'Difficult times'

Patients have been asked to self-manage minor illnesses at home, visit a pharmacist first and to attend health checks when invited in order to maintain good health.

The letter said: "We are struggling to stay afloat. If this continues, your local practice may disappear.

"We are feeling the pressure and we are working as hard as we can to provide the right care for our patients.

"In the meantime we will continue to do our best to support our patients and we appreciate your support and consideration during these difficult times."

Image of Jenny Nicol
Jenny Nicol is a registered patient at Kingswood Health Centre [BBC]

Jenny Nicol, who is a patient at the surgery, said she was "surprised" to receive the letter.

"I don't see what's changed - we are an older population than we used to be, but I don't go to the doctors any more than I used to.

"I don't know what the answer is. More money, I suppose.

"It's sad that things have come to this," she said.

Tiana Lyons
Tiana Lyons was advised to take her son to see a pharmacist as no appointments were available at the surgery [BBC]

Tiana Lyons, who recently registered at the surgery, was unable to book an appointment earlier this week for her young son who is suffering from an ear infection.

The surgery advised her to visit a pharmacist, who was able to prescribe antibiotics.

"It's slightly worrying there's no funding and you can't get appointments," Ms Lyons said.

Robyn Clark, the surgery's managing partner, said: "As a practice, we are already doing all of the things the NHS has recommended we do.

"We are always at a loss of what to do next."

Image of Robyn Clark.
Robyn Clark works as a managing partner at the surgery [BBC]

She added the surgery uses an online triage system, has a multi-skilled workforce and works to maximise funding for staff where possible.

But when practices close, thousands of patients are forced to register elsewhere, causing a "domino effect".

Ms Clark encouraged patients to write to their local MP to demand action.

She said: "At the moment we don't have any other powers to do anything differently.

"It is something that all of our patients tell us that they care a lot about. We would encourage them to fly the flag for general practices as much as possible."

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