Patients and GPs have taken to the streets in protest against NHS funding cuts that could lead to the closure of The Limehouse Practice in Tower Hamlets.
About 20 patients turned up to the demonstration with banners on the busy A13 traffic island at Limehouse, following a spate of protests about the NHS’ decision to phase out the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee (MPIG), which ensures a minimum level of funding to small GP practices in deprived areas.
The protests come after the Save Our Surgeries campaign announced last week that GP services in Tower Hamlets could face a loss of £20.4 million over the next seven years thanks to the cuts.
In a statement on its website, The Limehouse Practice said it would be “unsustainable” to remain open in light of the withdrawal of the MPIG fund as it means it is now facing a 20 per cent cut in funding.
It also claimed the NHS used the wrong figures in calculating which practices are classified as severely affected.
Dr Naureen Bhatti, a GP from The Limehouse Practice, said: “Our patients are telling us they don’t want to lose the GPs they trust. They don’t want further to travel. They don’t want to wait longer for an appointment and they don’t want to lose services.
“We’re urging NHS England to stop these cuts, so that surgeries like ours don’t have to close. We want them to work with us to find a fair funding formula that takes the needs of areas like east London properly into account.”
The Limehouse Practice is the latest surgery in the borough to go public about financial difficulties, after the Jubilee Street Practice came forward April last year.
Later that year, a petition was handed in to 10 Downing Street with 150,000 signatures calling for fairer funding for inner city surgeries where public needs “are more acute”.
Tower Hamlets is an area where demand for healthcare is particularly high – seven out of ten patients in the area are among the most deprived in the country.
Local GPs say they are struggling with a workload a third heavier than the current funding permits.
An NHS spokesman said: “The decision to phase out [MPIG] is a national policy which is being implemented all across the country, in order to make GP funding more equitable.
“The majority of practices in London will gain as a result, however we recognise the unique financial challenges that some GP practices are facing as a result of these changes.
“That is why we are working with the affected practices, the Office of London CCGs and Local Medical Committees from across the capital, to consider how these changes can take effect, and what arrangements might be put in place to support those affected.”
The affected GPs are now said to be in direct contact with NHS boss Simon Stevens who has allegedly promised to review the funding.
In the meantime, protests are continuing all around the country and campaigners are holding a strategy meeting on Thursday to plan the next move.