UNMANAGEABLE workloads, bullying and a deep lack of staff morale is leaving doctors feeling “burnt out” and close to “breaking point”, it has been claimed.

Over the last 12 months, seven GP surgeries have been put in special measures and four medical centres have closed or announced plans to.

Robert Frew Medical Partners revealed it was closing its Franklins Way branch, in Wickford, due to staffing and lease problems. It came just a week after the Swan Lane Practice - just half a mile away - announced it will shut permanently from August 31.

It leaves Wickford, a growing town currently made up of 33,000 residents, with just five GP surgeries.

With tens of thousands of new homes earmarked for south Essex, and Basildon and Southend Hospitals already struggling for bed space, our health service is under more stress than ever before.

Dr Krishna Chaturvedi, who has a 3,200-patient surgery in Southbourne Grove, Westcliff, believes part of the GP crisis lies with over-regulation.

He said: “The Care Quality Commission puts doctors under too much stress that leads to burn-out.

“Of course, all industries need monitoring, but we are over-regulated.

“A doctor not far from here, who is a very intelligent, hard working and diligent man, fell ill and closed his surgery recently.

“It is widely believed among doctors this is down to the stress he faced from the CQC. It can feel like bullying and it creates a deep lack of morale.”

Dr Sankar Bhattacharjee, of Westborough Road Health Centre, also in Westcliff, quit due to ill health in July last year.

He decided the 3,592 patients at the centre would be better cared for by neighbouring doctors, including Dr Marimuthu Velmurugan, also known as Dr Vel.

The 78-year-old, who recently merged his practice with the Valkyrie Surgery, in Valkyrie Road, Westcliff, said: “It’s hard for GPs. I feel the Government has made it impossible for small surgeries to survive. We don’t get enough support from NHS England, the Government, or Clinical Commissioning Groups.

“I merged my surgery so I was more stable, now I am happy. I will survive.”

He explained how he previously worked ten hour shifts, on top of conducting out-of-hour home visits - a workload other health professionals have branded “unmanageable”.

The Grafton Surgery, in Long Road, Canvey, was closed last year following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission. It was later reopened by Benfleet’s GP Healthcare Alliance.

Karen Sadler, chief executive of the alliance, which is made up of 20 medical practices across Castle Point and Rochford, said: “The level of work for doctors has become unmanageable.

“Doctors are retiring and people just don’t want to be doctors with the pressures they face.

“We see the pressures everyday. So many members of staff are abused by patients if they can’t get what they want, whether that’s a prescription or an appointment.

“It’s unfair on staff.”

Problems in bringing suitable staff to surgeries in Essex were uncovered by a countywide audit in 2016.

The British Medical Association revealed more than a third of GP partners - 35 per cent - have been unable to fill vacancies in the last 12 months.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the GP committee, said: “The findings from this BMA survey highlight the seriousness of the problems facing general practice across the country. In particular, over a third of GP partners, above the national average, in the East of England said they were unable to fill vacancies.

“The Government must urgently invest in general practice as recruitment issues, unmanageable workloads and under resourcing has pushed GP practices in Essex to breaking point.”

NHS England told the Echo it is working to attract more GPs, nurses and other primary care staff to the area.

The General Practice Forward View, published in April 2016, commits an extra £2.4billion a year to supporting general practice services across the country by 2020/21.

Meanwhile, Southend, Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Groups are looking to add mental health and physiotherapy services to GP practices.