GPs take 20,000-name SOS petition to Downing Street

GPs, patients and supporters from one of the most deprived parts of England took their grassroots campaign against practice funding cuts to the heart of government today.

Save our Surgeries: Protesters outside Downing Street (Photo: Alex Deverill)
Save our Surgeries: Protesters outside Downing Street (Photo: Alex Deverill)

A delegation from the East London Save Our Surgeries (SOS) campaign handed in a petition of more than 20,000 names calling for a reversal of the MPIG withdrawal at Downing Street.

Outside the gates on Whitehall, dozens of supporters including GPs, patients, practice staff, local councillors, trade unionists and representatives of the BMA and RCGP chanted and held banners against cuts to GP funding.

Campaigners believe more than 20 practices across three east London boroughs are at risk of closure because of MPIG cuts. The BMA has said hundreds of practices across the country - not only the 98 outliers identified as facing loses over £3 per patient - are at risk.

Downing Street protest images

Photos: Alex Deverill

Campaign links GPs and patients

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the SOS campaign is particularly significant because it brings patients together with GPs in the fight to defend general practice.

‘The government can ignore GPs sometimes, but they cannot ignore patients. It is so important patients stand up for their local practices because they are at threat,' he told GP.

As well as the growing protest movement across the country, said Dr Vautrey, GPC was working very hard behind the scenes to convince ministers that they need to reverse general practice funding cuts.

Virginia Patania, practice manager at the Jubilee Street Practice which has spearheaded the SOS campaign since revealing its £900,000 MPIG losses, told supporters the policy to equalise funding across practices regardless of the needs of deprived populations was not fair.

General practice could disappear

'Today we ask our politicians to make a decision,' she said. 'They need to decide whether they back general practice or will continue to see it disappear over the next few years, destroyed by a thousand cuts, which would be tragic.

'We ask  that we are able to deliver care in the community and contain growing pressures on A&E. We ask that we can facilitate our patients dying at home, and not in hospital. We ask that we have enough doctors and nurses to keep our patients safe.'

Ms Patania called for all GP funding changes to be put on hold until further consultation, for a fairer funding formula, and the repeal of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act.

RCGP honorary secretary Dr Nigel Mathers said it was ‘a scandal’ that the care of thousands of patients was at risk.

‘How can we have reached a situation where things have become so bad that GP practices - the lifeblood of their communities - are under threat of closure?'

Pivotal moment for GPs

'Today,' he added, 'is a pivotal moment, not just for general practice, but for the whole NHS. We want a sustainable, caring NHS and we hope the prime minister will heed our warnings before it is too late.'

East London MP and shadow education minister Rushanara Ali (Lab, Bethnal Green and Bow) thanked GPs for 'taking to the streets' in defence of general practice.

'It goes to show how desperate things are that you have had to take to the streets to get this government to listen,' she said. Ms Ali said MPIG changes were taking funding out of deprived communities. 

GP surgeries are 'being brought down to their knees' by funding cuts, she said. 'David Cameron needs to think again. Jeremy Hunt needs to think again, and reverse this dreadful decision.'

Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Lab, Poplar and Limehouse) said the message to government was 'loud and clear'.

'The NHS is not for sale and our GP practices are not for closing. And we will take this fight all the way.'

Read more: GP leaders back GP magazine call for politicians to support general practice

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