Record numbers of GP practices are closing, following a rise in the number of doctors retiring early ahead of a tax clampdown on pension pots, new figures show.
More than 250,000 patients have been “displaced” by surgery closures in the last year, amid plummeting GP numbers, the figures reveal.
In total, the number of practices closing has risen five-fold since 2013.
Senior doctors last night said communities were being left bereft, with elderly patients increasingly enduring long journeys to see a GP, and longer waiting times.
The exodus follows a series of tax clampdowns on bumper pensions, which have seen a sharp rise in the number of GPs retiring early, and reducing their tax burden.
Since 2012, the cap on what savers can amass without being taxed has dropped from £1.8 million to £1 million.
Meanwhile, the numbers retiring or going part-time is failing to be matched by that of new recruits.
In the last year, the total number of family doctors has fallen by 400, despite targets to boost numbers by 5,000 amid rising demand.
The new figures, from Pulse magazine, show a five-fold rise in closures of GP practices since 2013.
In total, 92 practices closed their doors last year, with 57 shutting up shop completely, and the rest closing as a result of mergers into “supersurgeries”. This compares with 20 such closures in 2013.
As a result, 265,000 patients saw their practice close last year, the figures reveal – compared with just 43,000 in 2013.