Local campaigns reflect groundswell of support for general practice

A groundswell of public support for general practice, unprecedented in recent times, has forced the crisis facing GPs to the top of the political agenda as the parties gear up for next year's general election.

Clockwise from top: SOS protesters in east London, a speaker at the March, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul, and Essex University student protesters
Clockwise from top: SOS protesters in east London, a speaker at the March, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul, and Essex University student protesters

As patients and campaigners sign petitions and take to the streets in defence of local practices under threat from the funding and workforce crisis, politicians and officials are under increasing pressure to act.

As GP went to press, NHS officials in London were preparing to reveal details of a financial package of support for the hardest-hit MPIG practices, following lobbying from practices and supporters. GPs had previously been told there was no money available.

Practices at risk

GP leaders have said hundreds of practices are at risk from MPIG cuts, not just the 98 outliers identified by NHS England, which face funding cuts of more than £3 per patient.

Local campaigns backing practices have emerged across the country, and MPs across the political spectrum have spoken out to support GPs.

On 6 August, east London Save Our Surgeries (SOS) campaigners will hand in a petition to Downing Street signed by 15,000 people opposed to MPIG cuts. The most high-profile local campaign against the GP funding threat held two marches of several hundred supporters in east London in the space of a month.

In the past fortnight, campaigners have won backing from Hackney borough council. London Fields Medical Practice GP and honorary secretary of City and Hackney BMA Dr Coral Jones told GP Hackney Council had been very supportive.

Addressing councillors, she said 10 practices in the borough faced combined MPIG losses of £8m. Twelve practices in Hackney, serving 100,000 patients, have been identified as at risk of closure.

Hackney’s cabinet member for health, councillor Jonathan McShane, said the council and mayor would back the SOS campaign.

SOS vice-chairman and president of the Medical Practitioners’ Union (MPU) Dr Ron Singer said the campaign aimed to explain to the public ‘that their surgeries are being put at risk’. The MPU could press the GPC to organise industrial action and seek to spread SOS ‘across London and beyond’, he said.

The east London campaigners collected signatures from more than 15,000 local residents in four weeks for a petition against MPIG cuts. The 38 Degrees campaign group has collected more than 5,600 signatures.

In west London last week, patients marched to protest about two local practices facing closure after 
the NHS trust running them gave notice on its contracts following £500,000 losses. 

Residents of London’s Chinatown told local media one of the practices is the only one in the area with Chinese-speaking GPs.

Essex University students last month protested in defence of their practice, which faces cuts of £1.2m, prompting NHS England to discuss financial help (pictured above).

Campaign leaders talk of broadening the campaign. As well as MPIG, SOS intends to focus on PMS practices expecting serious losses.

In Lancashire, patients are campaigning to defend rural surgeries such as the Slaidburn practice, facing heavy MPIG losses. GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the campaigns showed the message was ‘starting to get through’ .

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