GP campaigners petition DH ahead of second major street protest

GP campaigners said they were treated with disrespect after health ministers were unable to receive a public petition in support of practices faced with closure.

Save our Surgeries protest: petition to government (Photo: Pete Campbell)
Save our Surgeries protest: petition to government (Photo: Pete Campbell)

Doctors from east London were joined by patients and health campaigners outside DH headquarters in Whitehall to present a petition to the secretary of state's office signed by over 15,000 people in the past four weeks.

President of the Medical Practitioners Union and GPC member Dr Ron Singer said an employee from the DH’s privatised building management firm and an official from the corresponence department offered to meet the delegation, which included GPs from the threatened Jubilee Street Practice, but they felt that was ‘inappropriate’ and ‘very disrespectful’.

‘When we realised we weren't going to get anywhere, we emailed the secretary of state and asked for an appointment,' he said.  

East London Save Our Surgeries will hold a series of rallies and marches on Saturday across the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham where almost a quarter of the 100 practices at risk of closure from MPIG cuts across England are based.

Hundreds joined march

Last month hundreds of GPs and residents marched through Tower Hamlets in support of practices there.

‘Tomorrow we are going to explain to the the three rallies that this is the level of listening and involvement with the public that the DH does,' said Dr Singer, a retired GP from Newham.

Tomorrow's protests are being supported by both Newham MPs and will be attended by Diane Abbott (Lab, Hackney North and Stoke Newington) and Rushanara Ali (Lab, Bethnal Green and Bow).

Other speakers will include RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker, Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman and BMA council member and health campaigner Professor Allyson Pollock.

Jubilee Street partner Dr Naomi Beer said: ‘Our patients often tell us how much they appreciate the high quality, accessible service that Jubilee Street provides. We’ve already taken pay cuts to try to keep going, but we can’t absorb such a huge loss.

Risk of losing practices

'It breaks my heart to think that our patients, some of them among the poorest in the country, are at very real risk of losing their GP practice.’

Newly qualified junior doctor Dr Peter Campbell, who was on the protest at the DH, said it was vital that health professionals and patients stand together 'against the privatisation and reduction of NHS services'. 

'The issues highlighted by the patients and doctors in east London are symptomatic of the wider attempts by this government to reduce services to those who need them most. We must not allow them to continue.'

A DH spokeswoman said: 'Patients should have access to high quality GP services, no matter where they live. The system needs to be fair so GP practices are paid fairly according to the number of patients and the services they deliver. 

'The MPIG was introduced in 2004 to support practices moving to a new GP contract. The NHS will be supporting the most affected practices to adjust as these payments are gradually phased out over seven years, and the money will be reinvested in general practice.'

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