THERE is a “very real possibility” a York GP surgery could close permanently as the sector struggles with demand “grossly outstripping supply”.

The Press reported yesterday that the surgery in Stockton on the Forest had closed temporarily because of a shortage of reception staff.

But now York councillors have been told it may not reopen by Mike Holmes, chair of GP practice provider Nimbuscare.

He said GP support staff are frequently verbally abused and are being tempted away to other jobs with better pay and conditions, such as supermarkets.

Elvington Medical Practice in Wheldrake, another rural part of York, has not reopened since closing in the early days of the pandemic.

Prof Holmes and primary care boss Stephanie Porter were updating councillors on the pressures facing GP surgeries at a meeting of the health and adult social care scrutiny committee today.

Ms Porter said practices were “really feeling the strain”, with – for example – large numbers of calls from parents worried about the rise in Strep A cases, combined with staff sickness, forcing practices to delay routine appointments.

She added: “I think we’ve lost a sense of what Covid wave we are in and the exposure of our health professionals to flu and Covid, when fully vaccinated. We are seeing continued and sustained staff absence due to ill health.”

Prof Holmes explained that the amount of work done by GP surgeries was often hidden when compared with places like emergency departments.

He said the Haxby Group, which managed 11 GP practices across York, was now taking 12,000 calls a month.

Those practices are now delivering nearly 90 per cent of their appointments face-to-face, though Prof Holmes said younger people were often happier with telephone appointments.

Across the Haxby Group, there were currently just ten reception staff when there were supposed to be 18.5 – despite repeated efforts to recruit.

Prof Holmes said: “One of my receptionists was told that they were a ‘worthless person’ with a couple of expletives thrown in for good measure. That’s just not acceptable and it’s driving people away.

“These people are amazing, they’re so committed. They’ve worked tirelessly through a pandemic that put themselves and their families at risk.

“We’re trying very hard to get the services in place with the resources that we’ve got and there’s a mismatch and we have to be honest about that.

“That’s why staff won’t work with us and that’s why we’re having to make difficult decisions about surgeries.”

Committee chair Coun Paul Doughty described the news that the Stockton on the Forest surgery may not reopen as “very worrying”.

Prof Holmes said: “Just because a surgery isn’t open it does not mean we don’t care for the patients that are there.

“We would have to do a consultation, we’d have to do an impact assessment and we have to provide alternatives.

“We are caring healthcare professionals that genuinely care for the people who live in these villages.”