Cast off the island

IMG_2606Last month’s public meeting was attended by over 150 patients

The current operator of Aldersbrook Medical Centre handed in their notice last month. Paul Wildish from the patient participation group explains the troubles at the ‘island’ GP practice

Bounded by Bushwood, Wanstead Park, the City of London Cemetery and Wanstead Flats, the Aldersbrook and Lakehouse estates and close neighbours can seem like an urban island in the midst of green countryside. However, ‘islands’ have their problems and because of its setting, Aldersbrook Medical Centre has its fair share of issues. The demographic is changing, with an above-average ageing patient list, with complex medical needs, coupled with incoming younger families needing GP attention.

In the past, patients at Aldersbrook Medical Centre have seen a succession of providers, trying, but always failing, to deliver clinical service that met patient expectations. The money just wasn’t there; one, or even one-and-a-half doctors gave a barely adequate service and never matched the need, forcing providers into penny-pinching or taking out less profit. Naturally, they didn’t stay long.

This was the Aldersbrook Medical Centre norm that the patient participation group came to expect as we brought concerns to practice managers, who promised much but offered little to meet patient expectations. That was until five years ago when the Richmond Road Practice from Hackney took on the Aldersbrook Medical Centre GP contract on a five- plus five-year basis. Their coming was transformative, providing holistic clinical practice and innovative outreach to the community. The patient participation group and the patient community were delighted with the professional quality of the doctors working at Aldersbrook Medical Centre. 

Nothing lasts forever, for then the bombshell dropped. The first five years should have been followed by another five, as Aldersbrook Medical Centre had met all its targets and grown the patients list by 1,700-plus. However, it seems that clinical success doesn’t cut much ice with NHS managers. After demanding and protracted negotiations the Richmond Road team was offered continuation of the Aldersbrook Medical Centre contract only on the basis of a 10% cut to their budget!

Richmond Road felt forced to hand in their notice. The budget wouldn’t allow them to break even. Couple this with NHS managers reneging on promises that they would be offered continuation without competitive retendering, they felt misled and let down.

Well, having experienced best practice, the patients of Aldersbrook Medical Centre are in no mood to let NHS managers force a cheaper GP service upon us without a fight. We called the patients to a public meeting, we’re leafletting the estates and lobbying NHS managers and local politicians to get negotiations reopened. We want to keep our doctors. But if we can’t, we want ‘like for like’ cover and we aren’t going to settle for less.

For more information on the Aldersbrook Medical Centre patient participation group, email ppg.aldersbrookmedicalcentre@nhs.net