A HEALTH watchdog has said that the failure to prevent the closure of four doctors’ surgeries in Brighton is evidence of a shortage of GPs.

NHS England has confirmed that services to 10,000 patients which had been provided by The Practice Group will not be replaced in those surgeries.

Patients now face being transferred to other surgeries or having to find their own.

Additionally, the future of the Brighton Homeless Healthcare Surgery is still unsecured with current provision ending next January and a replacement provider still being sought.

David Liley, of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, said he was not surprised to learn of the closure of the four surgeries, announced on Monday, adding NHS England had been working with local groups and would support practices taking on more patients.

He said: “There’s no cast-iron guarantee that the migration of patients will go seamlessly without any flaw at all, and that’s a potential weakness in the plan.

“The other concern that’s been expressed by local people is the journey time and the cost of the journey that they might have to the new GP surgery.

"Those concerns have been minimised as much as possible but they’re real and some people are going to be hit in the pockets.

“The fact that NHS England could not find a taker to take on these practices shows a shortage of GPs both city-wide and nationally.”

Least affected of the four practices will be the 4,000 patients of The Practice Whitehawk Road, who will all be able attend the Ardingly Court GP practice in same building after it closes on November 30.

Patients at the Willow House in Bevendean, which will close on September 16, and Hangleton Manor in Hove, which will close on July 15, will also be transferred to surgeries run by other practices in Lewes Road and in Portslade respectively.

However 2,000 patients at The Practice North Street will have to make their own provision although NHS England insist that, between them, four nearby practices have room.

In her letter to stakeholders, Sarah Macdonald, director of commissioning at NHS England South, said: "We are working with The Practice Group and the other local receiving GP practices to ensure a smooth transfer of patient care and to make sure any vulnerable patients who may require additional support or information can access this."

Personalised letters to the patients of each of the four affected surgeries are currently in the post, and will also be made available in the surgeries and online.

Any patients with further queries are invited to call NHS England on 01293 729298 or to email england.primarycare.southeast@nhs.net.