GPs in A13 traffic island protest fear East End surgery closures over NHS funding
PUBLISHED: 18:07 23 March 2015
Patients joined their GPs in a street protest over budget cuts that campaigners say could close down many surgeries in London's deprived East End with its high levels of chronic illness.
Drivers skimmed past the traffic island demo on the busy A13 main-road at Limehouse with the campaigners waving banners protesting above the roar of the traffic.
Some 22 east London surgeries are on a “danger list” for closure following NHS funding changes—top of the hit list is feared to be Limehouse Practice, close to last Thursday’s street protest at the East India Dock Road junction with Burdett Road.
“Our patients don’t want to lose the doctors they trust,” Limehouse Practice GP Naureen Bhatti said. “We’re urging the NHS to stop these cuts so that surgeries like ours don’t have to close.”
Around 20 patients from the practice turned up at the traffic island to support the protest.
Surgeries stand to lose £20 million in Tower Hamlets alone over the next seven years, yet seven-out-of-10 of their patients are at the most deprived end of the country’s population, the GPs point out.
Local GPs say they are struggling with a workload a third heavier than current funding allows for surgery contract holders.
Patients in the East End are said to have shorter life expectancy than more affluent areas and are more prone to long-term health problems
Health researcher Dr Kambiz Boomla said: “Illness and the need for a GP depends not on how far you are from birth (in age), but on how close you are to death.
“People aged 50-69 from poorer areas consult their GP twice as often as those in richer areas. Older people in the East End are also much more likely to suffer long-term health conditions.”
A petition was handed in to 10 Downing Street last August with 150,000 signatures calling for fairer funding for inner city surgeries where public needs “are more acute”.
The GPs have now had direct talks with NHS boss Simon Stevens in Whitehall and say they have a promise that the funding formula “is being reviewed”—but meantime are continuing street protests and are holding a strategy meeting this Thursday to plan the next move in the battle for surgery cash.