GPs from the Limehouse Practice in Gill Street hosted a special meeting with the Rt Hon. Alistair Burt MP, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, on Friday, 3rd July.
The Minister was keeping a promise made by the Health Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, to shadow Limehouse GP Naureen Bhatti for a day.
When Jeremy Hunt could not find a date before the autumn, Alistair Burt was sent instead – because the Limehouse Practice faces closure by September if NHS England fails to offer a solution.
During the visit, Alistair Burt met six practice partners, staff and patients, as well as members of the Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group and supporters of the Save Our Surgeries campaign, which has been campaigning for the survival of local GP practices.
The Minister was left in no doubt that the surgery provides a high-quality, much-valued service, despite the huge challenges of working in an area of high deprivation, where people use their GPs more and get sick younger than elsewhere.
Practices across east London have been badly hit by the loss of a top-up payment which helped them meet the demands on general practice in poorer areas.
The Limehouse Practice is the latest in Tower Hamlets to face closure – but unlike the Jubilee Street Practice, which has already received emergency funding, and the Albion Practice, which has agreement in principle, the Limehouse Practice falls just pennies short of losses that would meet the criteria. In any case, the emergency funding would only be for two or three years – pushing the problem down the line.
Dr Naureen Bhatti said: “The Minister said several times that we’d made our case. But he stopped short of making any promises at all. That is very worrying news for our partners and patients. It’s also bad news for patients across the borough. If we have to close, our 11,000 patients will either be looking for a doctor elsewhere – putting pressure on over-stretched practices throughout Tower Hamlets – or the practice will be tendered at far greater cost than helping us now.”