This morning, Dr Chris Hewitt, chief executive of the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland local medical committee spoke to BBC Radio Leicester concerning recent news regarding the closure of vitally need local GP surgeries in Leicester. He pointed out:
“I think the Government really needs to get a grip with the NHS. If the politicians continue to ignore the situation, then general practice as we know it is going to disappear. The number of practices who are really really struggling is probably in the region of 30% in this area. There is also probably another 20 or 30% who, if bad luck was to strike, or if they were to be any new or sudden retirements, then I think we will really will hit a big problem. As one practice closes, we’ve seen the situation in Leicester where 7,000 patients are now being dispersed across the other practices, and those other practices are going to really struggle, and one or two of those may well be pushed over, and so the dominoes continue to fall.”
“There is a real drop in morale [across surgeries in England] and many GPs feel that the service is not just unsafe but it is unsustainable, and many are taking the steps to retire early or carry on their careers abroad. You know GPs leaving in their forties and fifties.”
Just last year, Dr Hewitt reported on the results of a survey of GPs based in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, which determined that “Eight out 10 were working more than nine hours a day and almost a quarter reported working days longer than 14 hours” (“GPs’ morale plunges to all-time low,” January 2015, Leicester Mercury). As one GP commented:
“It is a shame we cannot practice what we tell our patients. We improve their lives at the expense of our own lives and the lives of our families.”
As Dr Hewitt warned: “I believe the impact of huge cuts to social care since 2010 mean GP surgeries and hospital accident departments will drown this winter under the weight of a rising tide of demand” (“GP care ‘in meltdown’,” November 2015, Mercury).
This intensifying crisis was reflected by the fact that “over 40 per cent of GP training posts remain vacant in the East Midlands,” and by Dr Hewitt’s worrying observation that:
“Medical students and doctors in training do not want to be GPs any more as the system is unsafe, unsustainable and very frightening to work in.”
What is clear is that the only way that this crisis in care provision can be reversed is if the people of Leicester unite and demand that our city (and the rest of the country) be provided with the funding we need to run the NHS.
(Two good examples of vibrant and ever-swelling public campaigns include the Leicester-based “Save Queen’s Road Medical Centre” group, and another in Huddersfield that is being waged against their own Clinical Commissioning Group that can be found online at #handsoffhri.)
On a national level we also need to fight against the ongoing privatisation of the NHS, as promoted by Clinical Commissioning Groups across the country. This is why in the long run it is so important to call for an end to privatisation in healthcare and for a publicly-funded, democratically run NHS. This is the only way healthcare can be accountable and genuinely meet people’s needs.
- Stop all cuts, closures and privatisation
- All hospitals to be fully funded by the NHS
- Adequate staffing levels to provide good quality care for all patients
- All NHS PFI deals and debt to be scrapped, with compensation paid only on the basis of proven need
- Kick big business vultures out of the NHS
- Axe the Health and Social Care Act
- For a mass national trade union-led weekend demonstration to save the NHS