Just four weeks after their first protest, campaigners more than doubled their numbers on the streets and demonstrated across three boroughs demanding urgent government action.
GPs and patients from Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham held rallies, a march, and an open-top campaign bus tour. The events were organised to coincide with the 66th anniversary of the founding of the NHS.
Up to 22 practices in the three boroughs, which include some of the most deprived parts of the UK, are at serious risk from MPIG cuts and other funding threats.
Large numbers join protest
With backing from several local MPs, local councillors and CCG leaders, and support from the powerful Unite union, the grassroots East London Save Our Surgeries campaign brought significant numbers onto the streets for the second time in a month.
One leading Tower Hamlets politician, councillor Oliur Rahman, told a cheering crowd that ‘if necessary we will tie ourselves to the surgery’ to prevent closures.
Leaders from across east London’s political spectrum called for unity to resist the funding threat to practices.
Elected mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman told the crowd at Altab Ali Park, a local symbol of unity and resistance, that the campaign could force ministers to intervene to save surgeries.
Mr Rahman called on the government to find the money to keep practices open. ‘We need to open more surgeries,' he said, and promised to continue to ‘squeeze’ property developers for section 106 planning funding for GP premises.
Politicians 'failed general practice'
Jubilee Street practice partner and campaign leader Dr Naomi Beer said all political parties had failed general practice over the years, but that the 2012 Health and Social Care Act failed the people of the country.
She condemned inaction by the ‘ineffectual quango, NHS England’, and the failure to listen and act by ministers.
Dr Beer called on government immediately to reinstate MPIG and reverse the ‘disastrous effects’ of the health and social care act.
Addressing the Hackney rally in London Fields, RCGP chairwoman Dr Maureen Baker said without changes to NHS funding, practices would shut down. But, they ‘cannot be allowed to close’, she warned.
The loss of MPIG funding will hit patients from the most deprived communities, she warned, and ‘that should be unacceptable to all of us’.
Warning over practice closures
Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP Diane Abbott said ‘more people will die’ if practices close.
The campaign was part of a wider fight, she said, ‘against the privatisation of the NHS’. ‘Congratulations on marching,’ added Ms Abbott. ‘I’m with you.'
Hackney GP Dr Nick Mann from the Well Street practice called for ‘proper funding’ to avoid the introduction of charges for NHS primary care.
Retired Newham GP and chairman of the Unite doctors’ section Dr Ron Singer called on the Labour party to ‘restore the NHS to what it was, rather than one we feel worried about’.
‘GPs have taken a magnificent lead in starting this fightback,' he said. ‘We say restore the funding to practices and restore quality to practices by giving them adequate funding to do their job properly.’
Dr Singer said campaigners were drafting a pledge to ask general election candidates to commit to supporting expanded and adequately funded general practice and the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act.
NHS is crumbling
Chairman of Newham small practice federation Dr Ramaswamy Venugopal warned the rally at Stratford Station that the health service was crumbling and would be ‘left with nothing but ashes and sorrow’ unless the funding crisis was tackled.
A spokeswoman for NHS England London said MPIG withdrawal would make GP funding more equitable and the majority of London practices would gain as a result.
NHS England, she said, was working with affected practices, CCGs and LMCs 'to consider how these changes can take effect, and what arrangements might be put in place to support those affected'.
'These discussions are currently ongoing, and we are continuing to look at other ways we can help going forward.'