Patients flocked to Southcote Primary School to hear about plans to keep the Circuit Lane surgery afloat — but left with no concrete proposals in place.
The partners of the practice, one of whom is retiring, handed in their resignations in July and will continue to see patients until January 31 next year.
Matthew Tait, Thames Valley director for NHS England, told the meeting that he expects to find a temporary provider within the next two months, for a year-long tenure starting in February next year.
He said: “First of all, I want to apologise to everyone in the room. We tried to tell everyone what was happening but we obviously didn’t do it quickly enough, and that’s not good enough.
“I am confident that we will find a provider. What we hope to do is, by November, award the temporary contract.”
However, patients have been left upset that they will soon be speaking to GPs who do not know their health records and they called for NHS England to negotiate with the current partners about remaining at the practice.
Many also voiced concerns that a new provider would seek to make a profit rather than concentrating on the quality of care, but Mr Tait added that all practices across the country are run by private companies.
Cllr Deborah Edwards, Southcote ward representative on Reading Borough Council, said: “The Clinical Commissioning Groups have really let us all down. They should have seen this coming. This meeting should not have had to set the scene about what is going to be happening over the next few months.”
She added: “We need to get the best deal for Southcote.”
Dr David Horn, who has worked at the surgery for 27 years, said: “Circuit Lane has never been a particularly easy practice to work in. What we’re doing at the moment hasn’t worked.
“We have had enough as partners. As a business — and we are a business — the salary the doctors can take home is getting smaller.”
He said the problem has come from a history of GPs starting and finishing their careers together, along with salaried doctors being paid more than partners.
He said: “When I started, the last group of GPs were all about the same age and left one after the other.”
Dr Jim Kennedy, a Wargrave GP, told the meeting that 73 per cent of GP partners are suffering burn-out due to an unprecedented workload.
He added: “Workload has doubled since 2000. It’s not an attractive career for young doctors. Eleven per cent of GPs in the Thames Valley have indicated that they intend to emigrate in the next five years.”
Reading West MP Alok Sharma, who chaired the meeting, said the problems had not arisen “overnight” and added: “What we need is more GPs.”