Shortly before Christmas about 200 local residents packed Bents Green Methodist Church to appeal for the continuation of a local GP service after March 2016. This followed the resignation of the existing GP service providers.
I for one, and many others present at the meeting were shocked to hear from local NHS managers that they were powerless to give any guarantee about the continuity of GP primary care.
Instead of reassurance, the meeting was told by NHS England that its hands were tied, and only two options were available, either a) inviting GP services from elsewhere to apply to provide a GP service contract at Bents Green, or b) disperse the 2,400 patients at Bents Green to ten other GP surgeries within a 1.5 to 2 mile radius. Though it insisted no decisions had been taken, the latter was clearly the outcome NHS England expected as available NHS funding was not sufficient to attract a new provider.
While NHS England insisted other GP practices had capacity to absorb the Bents Green patient list, residents reported that the nearest alternative GP practice had closed its list and was not taking more patients at the present time. Concerns were expressed about losing a trusted and well regarded GP service because of insufficient funding and the impact this loss could have on the viability of Bents Green pharmacy. Further concerns were raised about the difficulty of travel for ill and/or infirm patients – particularly in winter. Wouldn’t the likely outcome be more pressure on A&E services?
What I and many others heard at this meeting was a case study in the abject failure of Government health policy. By stealth the Government has dismantled, privatised and squeezed primary care while assuring us that the NHS is safe in their hands. The anxiety and concerns expressed by many Bents Green residents about the likely loss of their GP service demonstrated the NHS is clearly not safe in Government hands. We must stop the creeping privatisation of the NHS and restore local public accountability.
There is wider concern regarding how local communities function, with local surgeries, post offices, schools, shops all gradually being forced to close. This is a threat to the very foundations of our communities, which calls for a robust response.
Ecclesall Ward Green Party
Published in the Sheffield Star on 8th January 2016:
Topics: City Wide, Ecclesall, Health, Umberto Albarella