The Government’s top-down forced move to polyclinics is already disrupting healthcare in neighbouring boroughs and will soon be heading Islington’s way.
In Haringey, 37 GP surgeries are to be closed, in City and Hackney, 18 surgeries will be reduced to four, and a number of Camden GPs will be moved into University College hospital. So far, over 100 GP surgeries in London are threatened with closure, and that’s in just a quarter of the capital’s primary care trusts. Do Londoners want to lose 400 local GPs? Next week, family doctors are mounting SOS (Save Our Surgeries) demonstrations, to ask the government to think again.
First post offices, now local GPs; these are the essential services that keep London’s “villages” going. They underpin our local shopping streets and provide meeting places for our diverse communities. Public transport is already overloaded at peak times, and will now be carrying thousands of patients across boroughs on their way to clinics that are no longer in walking distance. Forget bendy buses; we’ll have waiting rooms on wheels.
In the SOS for the NHS campaign launched last year, Lib Dems recognised that giving local communities more democratic control over their local health services is vital if we are to avoid target takeover and frontline cuts. Islington’s Primary Care Trust is full of good people with good intentions – but they take their orders from Whitehall. It may only be a bus-ride from Islington, but it’s a world away in terms of understanding what local people want from our NHS.
There’s nothing wrong with polyclinics provided they are introduced in a way that works with where people live and travel, and how they want to access health care. But forcing them onto local GP practices which already work well is madness. That’s why the decision should be left to local communities not dictated by Whitehall.
Meanwhile, the PCT want to close Finsbury Health Centre. This is partly because the Department of Health won’t give them the money needed to keep the listed building up to scratch. It’s deeply ironic; Finsbury Health Centre was a pioneering polyclinic when it opened 70 years ago, and has been providing integrated health care to people in Finsbury ever since.
We have new communities in Islington where providing polyclinics from the word go would be great. Islington Council got Arsenal to pay for new health care buildings to serve the thousands of flats being built around the Emirates stadium. But the PCT didn’t have the money to operate them.
So Government policy means that local GPs have to make way for polyclinics, while existing polyclinics have to close, and potential ones never open? I know laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, but this is ridiculous.