DOCTORS at an Ayrshire GP practice have blamed "impossible" funding as they announced plans to close the surgery this summer.
Partners at Glencairn Medical Practice in Kilmaurs and Crosshouse said they had resigned their contract with the health board "with immense sadness", and would hand over the running of the GP service to NHS Ayrshire and Arran from August 1.
In a letter to patients, the partners said the practice had been struggling against "UK-wide staffing and workload pressures that are now nationally recognised to be affecting General Practice".
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It said: "Unfortunately due to a range of pressures, running of the practice with the present funding stream has become impossible. The partners sought support from NHS Ayrshire and Arran; however, there were not sufficient resources to sustain the practice in its current form.
"We have been left with no reasonable alternatives that will allow us to maintain our clinical standards."
GP practices are funded by health boards via the nationally agreed General Medical Services (GMS) contract, which stipulates which services GPs - as independent contractors and practice owners - must provide in exchange for NHS cash. A new GP contract is in the process of being negotiated with the Scottish Government.
The practice's third branch, in Fenwick, closed in November last year when staff shortages were blamed. The latest closures come against a backdrop of record vacancies for GP surgeries across Scotland with more than a quarter of practices struggling to fill at least one post.
Recruitment and retention problems across the sector have led to an increasing number of GP practice being taken over by health boards, which then employ salaried GPs to run them. In July 2015, 42 GP practices were under direct NHS control, with NHS Lothian forced to take over five practices in a single year.
A spokeswoman for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: "There have been negotiations with the partners to find a solution, however this has not been possible. Therefore from 31 July 2017, Glencairn Medical Practice, under its current ownership, will cease.
"To ensure that patients of Glencairn Medical Practice continue to receive services, NHS Ayrshire & Arran will advertise the availability of the vacant practice. We will work to ensure that patients continue to receive general medical services and if necessary will take over the running of the practice directly."
She added: "All GPs in Ayrshire and Arran are funded in accordance with NHS financial guidance. GPs are compensated for the size of their practice list, their geographical area and the health demographic of their patients."