GP surgeries 'at breaking point' over new patients
At least 100 GP surgeries are reported to have applied to stop taking on new patients, amid claims many are reaching breaking point.
Practices are struggling to cope with a rising demand from patients, a lack of resources and a GP shortage, the British Medical Association's GP committee chairman told the BBC.
Just under half of those that applied in 2014-2015 were either denied permission to do so or withdrew the request, a Freedom of Information request by the BBC showed.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul told the broadcaster: "GP services are reaching breaking point as they struggle to cope with rising patient demand, falling resources and a shortage of GPs.
"Closing their list is the only option to maintain safe care to their local community."
A survey published last April claimed to show a " shocking shortage" of GPs.
GP magazine Pulse said the shortage had led to a 9% vacancy rate in surgeries, up from 6% the previous year.
The average time to fill a partnership vacancy was 5.7 months, the survey said.
Dr Nagpaul said general practice across England "is under unprecedented pressure".
He added: "Some practices are having to consider taking the difficult decision to close their practice lists in order to safeguard safe and effective care because they do not have the resources or staff to treat the sheer number of patients coming through their surgery's door.
"In this environment, many GPs are buckling under the pressure and stopping or reducing their work due to stress, a situation which is not only deeply upsetting for the individuals involved, but is further diminishing the capacity of GP services.
"With more than 600 GP trainee posts left vacant in 2015 and a third of the existing workforce considering retirement in the next five years, there are signs this crisis is likely to worsen this year."