A major GP practice in Tower Hamlets faces reducing its hours and turning away patients because NHS England wants to cut its funding by more than 40 per cent.
A Tower Hamlets councillor yesterday launched a petition to stop cutbacks at the Barkantine practice.
The cuts are directly in contrast with Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement in September promising that GP practices would stay open for longer by 2020.
Andrew Wood, Conservative councilor for Canary Wharf, instigated the petition. The Barkantine APMS (Alternative Provider Medical Services) practice in Tower Hamlets has operated seven days a week from 8am to 8pm for the last five years. It is the largest and closest practice to Canary Wharf and doubles as a walk-in centre.
It currently has 18,900 patients but risks having to turn away over 2,000 patients if the changes go through. Local Medical Committee leaders in the borough believe the practice could face cuts of around £30 per patient.
Lead GP at the Barkantine practice, Dr Stuart Bingham, has described the proposal as “bizarre” in an exclusive interview with GP Online:
“We are negotiating with NHS England, but on the facts of the offer, we would not be viable. We have had a meeting with NHS England London and they assure us they don’t want us to close. But at the moment we find it hard to see how, with both a reduction in the list size and the reduction in the pounds per patient, it would be viable.
NHS England is exercising the five-year break clause in their 10-year contract with the practice in order to implement these changes. The break clause in NHS England’s contract with St Andrews practice in Bromley-by-Bow will also be activated.
The population around the Barkantine practice is growing fast. Last Thursday two of the tallest residential towers in the UK were approved within a few hundred meters of the Barkantine practice, which would increase their patient list by up to 20 per cent. However, no additional GP surgery locations have been approved in the area.
Councillor Wood said: “East London is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing areas in the UK, we should be extending GP opening hours as David Cameron has announced rather then reducing them at the Barkantine and St Andrews surgeries, especially when the local population is due to triple in size over the coming years.”
An NHS England spokesperson has said: “Discussions with the Barkantine practice have recently commenced to progress these changes. As NHS England is still in the early stages of negotiations with the Barkantine practice, we cannot comment on any potential reduction in opening hours.”
“The GP registered patient surgery contract will specify the minimum opening hours and there is the option for the practice to determine whether to extend those beyond those stipulated to meet the needs of their patients.”
“We are working in collaboration with the CCG [Clinical Commissioning Group] to operate extended opening hours for all patients across a number of practices on a federated model to provide an equitable solution to all. It is not viable for every practice to offer its registered patients extended opening hours.”
“NHS England cannot comment on the viability of the practice following the changes.”