East London GPs face uncertain future as funding cuts affect a number of surgeries across ELL


Pic: Caroline

Pic: Caroline

More than a dozen GP practices are facing closure as NHS funding reforms hit surgeries in the East London Lines boroughs this month.

A total of 22 practices are under threat in London, 12 of these in Hackney while another 5 are situated in Tower Hamlets.

The threats to the surgeries are a result of the funding formula for GP surgeries officially having changed on the April 1, leaving many surgeries expecting the worse.

The cuts would result in a loss of at least £1 million in the next 7 years for each surgery. It is estimated that every practice will be over £140,000 a year worse off by 2020, which is roughly the salary of two full time GPs.

The Jubilee Street Practice, on Commercial Road in Tower Hamlets,  denounced the changes calling them “insane” and “unethical.”

The practice’s accountants estimated that, if the trend continues, they would only have about 12 months financial viability.

Looking further ahead, if the same situation continued for 7 years they would lose about £92 per patient, which is more than the capitation payment assigned to a nurse or a physician per each patient enrolled.

Practice Manager Virginia Patania said that when she heard about the changes she repeatedly contacted and was assured that the capitation payments would replace the losses made.

She said: “This was not at all the case. Ultimately, we would basically be paying out of pocket to see patients.”

With the support of local Hackney MP Naomi Beer, Patania repeatedly approached NHS England about the issue, but she says she was told that “support” would be offered, but that this was “unlikely to be financial support”.

NHS England admitted in February that 98 practices in the UK could be under threat of closure. These were expected to be small surgeries in rural areas, but, instead, the surgeries that seem to have been affected seem to be largely in central areas of London, where the demand for health care is extremely high.

Patania said: “The risk was known and identified, and no financial or practical planning was done with this knowledge. No provision whatsoever was made for these 98 practices. Crucially, this remains to be the case.”

Patania also highlighted that the public outcry has been “immense”.

She said a wave of support had been received and that many of their most vulnerable patients were worried and confused.

She said: “Reception is spending much of its time reassuring patients that we will not be closing ‘immediately’, and answering questions like ‘but where will I register?’ and ‘what will happen to my doctor of 20 years?”

Many other practitioners are also worried that the cuts will affect the quality of the service offered in East London.

Jonathon Tomlinson, who works as a GP in Hackney, said: “The calculation is absurdly complicated and might very well be worse than what we expect.

We haven’t made a decision about what to do, but it will almost certainly involve the partners taking most of the loss out of our earnings in order to preserve the staffing levels required to maintain the quality and access our patients need.”

A NHS England (London region) spokesperson said: “The changes are part of a national policy to bring all practices into an equal financial position, which will ensure that all patients can expect the same high level of service from their GP where ever they live.

The majority of GP practices in London will receive more funding in their global sum as a result of these changes, but some will receive less.”

Regarding Jubilee Street Practice, the NHS issued a statement declaring: “We have contacted Jubilee Street Practice and other GP practices which may be significantly affected to discuss any financial challenges and identify ways to support them.

We are working closely with GPs from across the capital on how to meet the challenges of a growing and changing London and reform services so they work better for both doctors and patients.”

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