London GPs launch 'Lewisham-style' protest campaign against funding cuts

London GPs have agreed to organise protest marches as part of a 'Lewisham-style' campaign against GP funding pressures and MPIG cuts.

Dr Kambiz Boomla: fears over destabilisation of practices (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr Kambiz Boomla: fears over destabilisation of practices (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

A packed meeting of over 80 east London GPs, practice staff, patient representatives and health campaigners held at Mile End Hospital, Tower Hamlets, was called by partners of Jubilee Street Practice which faces losses of over £900,000 from correction factor withdrawal.

The meeting voted unanimously that it had no confidence in the government’s equitable funding policies imposed in the 2013/14 contract that threaten with closure at least 98 practices hit hardest by MPIG withdrawal.

GPs and practice managers proposed a march in Tower Hamlets in defence of local practices facing funding cuts and a Londonwide march in July.

Encouraging solidarity

Jubilee Street partner Dr Naomi Beer said she was ‘incredibly encouraged’ by the level of solidarity.

The threat of losing the practice had galvanised the partners, said Dr Beer, ‘to do what we can, not just to save our practice, but to dream something bigger: to save the principle of the NHS which is under threat’.

Jubilee Street practice manager Virginia Patania warned that every practice would be hit by the effects of funding changes. ‘I don't think there will be anyone in this room who will not feel it either as a secondary effect or directly.’

Local MP Jim Fitzpatrick (Lab, Poplar and Limehouse) gave his support to the campaign, telling GPs he was there to ‘demonstrate solidarity’.

‘My job is to participate [in the campaign], and to contribute to it’, he said.

MP offers support

Mr Fitzpatrick said he had secured a meeting with a health minister which Jubilee Street partners will be invited to attend to discuss the threat to practices.

President of the Medical Practitioners Union and GPC member Dr Ron Singer said he was not sure meeting ministers would make much difference and called on GPs to emulate the successful community campaign against the closure of Lewisham A&E department in south London.

If all practices affected by MPIG cuts would 'stand up', said Dr Singer, 'we could begin to build a very big campaign'.

‘Unless we overturn this, this is another nail in the coffin of the NHS,' he said. 'We can build a Lewisham-style campaign, we can take the government on and I think we can win.'

Tower Hamlets CCG chairman Dr Sam Everington, who organised protests against hospital doctors' working hours in the 1980s, said the campaign was not about GPs, but about patients.

MPIG tip of the iceberg

MPIG cuts were ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, warned Dr Everington, and NHS England was talking about ‘effectively cutting £250m in primary care’.

Chrisp Street Practice GP Dr Kambiz Boomla said: ‘The danger is if we keep quiet and practices fold ... all that would trigger is an NHS England opportunity to tender, to see what other private providers could come and take us over.’

Dr Boomla called on practices to stand together and suggested GPs across the borough could resign en masse if any practice were forced to close.

Vice chairman of RCGP London Dr Victoria Tzortziou-Brown, sitting alongside honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers, brought the meeting the support of the college. She said GPs across the country needed to work together. ‘I think we can succeed,' she said.

Destabilisation of GP services

Limehouse practice manage Maggie Falshaw called for a Londonwide protest to march to the DH to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the NHS on 5 July.

Hackney LMC chairwoman Dr Fiona Sanders said there were 14 practices facing MPIG cuts of over £2 per patient. She said it was important all practices, including those on PMS contracts, work together.

Tower Hamlets BMA chairwoman Dr Jackie Applebee, who chaired the meeting, said the campaign group would begin work on proposals for a local Tower Hamlets march, and a Londonwide march.

A spokeswoman for NHS England Lonodn region said: 'General practice is the bedrock of the NHS in London and central to our plans to improve healthcare, which is why we are working closely with leading GPs across the capital to transform services.

'We know several practices are concerned about the changes, but in the long term, they will create a more equal distribution of funding across the capital, ensuring practices are paid fairly according to the number of patients and the services they need - and the majority of practices will gain.

'A small number of practices, however, will lose funding as part of these changes and we have we set up a working group with the Office of London CCGs and Local Medical Committees from across the capital to support those GPs affected and consider what arrangements might be put in place to help them with the changes they will need to make.' 

'We have also offered to meet with the most affected practices – including the Jubilee Street Practice – to discuss their unique challenges and ways these may be overcome. This could include looking at collaboration with other local practices, greater use technology and workforce considerations.'

 

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