Medical Emergency

IMG_2664Patient participation group members picketed outside NHS North East London’s Integrated Care Board HQ last month

In the second of a series of articles charting the challenges facing Aldersbrook Medical Centre, Paul Wildish from the patient participation group explains the fight to maintain the same level of GP provision

Ever since a letter from Sarah See – the NHS manager responsible for commissioning GP Primary Health Care in the Redbridge area – dropped through our letterboxes in February, the residents of the Aldersbrook and Lakehouse estates have felt let down. The letter announced that our current, well-respected doctors at Aldersbrook Medical Centre (AMC) were leaving, to be replaced by others, not yet known, providing a level of service not yet determined. And all this to happen by the end of March (later extended to June). 

The NHS Primary Care team implied our doctors had made a voluntary decision to hand in their notice, but AMC’s patient participation group knew different. After months of negotiations with local NHS managers, our current providers found the continuation budget they were being offered amounted to a 10% cut, making the service they currently provide economically unsupportable. The patients of AMC came together and decided we would resist this new settlement being imposed upon us.

Of course, when you are just an ordinary patient it’s one thing to want to have your voice heard and quite another to do something about getting NHS managers to listen. Well, AMC patients are working hard and learning fast, because we know that patients expressing their distress at decisions made ‘up there’ at NHS North East London’s Integrated Care Board HQ in Unex Tower, Stratford, don’t count unless you gain the support of those who carry the gravitas and influence that NHS managers take notice of. 

Fortunately, the justice of our case to keep the same level of GP provision and no cuts at AMC has won the support of our local Wanstead Park councillors, our MP John Cryer and Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, chair of the NHS Confederation. They have added their voices to ours and continue to negotiate with local NHS managers on our behalf because the decisions the ICB is making, based on a 10% reduction in the budget, can only bring about a worse service.

We know the NHS is struggling. We know there is not enough money to go round. And we understand equity is a fundamental principle of NHS provision. However, we also know telling us we are getting more than we deserve and that we should be grateful with a reduced service does not wash. What they are really telling us is you can’t have excellence. It seems innovation and good practice must be limited by the cuts the government insists the NHS managers make, regardless of the specific needs a GP surgery must address.

Is this the story we want to hear or should patients in every surgery start demanding more?

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