Over half of GPs are prepared to close their lists to new patients, says BMA

Authors: Abi Rimmer 

Publication date:  07 Sep 2017

Over half of GPs are prepared to temporarily close their lists to new patients, and two fifths are prepared to close them permanently, a BMA survey has found. In light of the results the BMA urged the government to tackle the growing crisis threatening GP services.

Of the 7824 general practices in England, 1870 (24%) took part in the BMA survey. Of those that responded, 1005 (54%) said that they would consider temporarily suspending patient registration. Asked whether they would consider applying for a permanent, formal list closure from NHS England, 822 (44%) said that they would.

In May, GPs at the annual conference of local medical committees demanded that their leaders ballot the profession on the potential mass closure of practice lists in response to the current crisis facing general practice.[1] The survey opened on 10 July and closed on 10 August.[2]

Commenting on the results, Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s general practitioners committee, said, “The fact that even a single surgery has reached the point where it would consider a suspension of new patient registration or closing its patient list fully shows that the government’s promises to rescue GP services have failed to materialise.”

He said that some practices had already suspended their practice lists to maintain patient safety because of the pressure they were under.

Vautrey added, “The government needs to understand that this landmark survey sounds a clear warning signal from GPs that cannot be ignored—and that the workload, recruitment, and funding crisis in general practice must be addressed with far more vigour and commitment. Practices believe that the promises in the GP Forward View, which pledged to provide more resources to frontline patient care, have failed to make an impact.

“The BMA is now calling on ministers to work with us to urgently address this growing crisis which is threatening to overwhelm general practice. We cannot allow a situation where patient safety is compromised by a lack of political action.”

Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, expressed concern about the survey’s findings.

“No practice would ever consider closing their list to new patients if they were not seriously concerned about their ability to cope with their increasing workload and deliver care to patients safely,” she said. “The RCGP has shown numerous times over the last few years that, nowadays, UK family doctors making 60 patient contacts a day is commonplace—and that they are routinely working intensive, 11 hour plus days in clinic.

“GPs who are fatigued are more likely to make mistakes, so these working conditions are potentially a risk to our patients’ safety.”

She added, “The results of this survey are a call for help. We need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View—including £2.4bn extra a year for general practice and 5000 more full time equivalent GPs—delivered in full and as a matter of urgency.”


  1. Iacobucci G. GPs call for ballot on mass closure of practice lists. BMJ  2017;357:j2494. [Link]   [Link] .
  2. Iacobucci G. GP leaders ballot profession on mass list closure. BMJ  2017;358:j3374. [Link]   [Link] .

Abi Rimmer The BMJ


Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: