Labour has secured an urgent report from health officials on the closure of a major doctor’s surgery in Brighton and the potential consequences of further closures or retirements. When Eaton Place surgery in Kemp Town closes in March, over 5,500 patients will have to find alternative care if they have not done so already.
Leader of the Labour and Co-operative group, Councillor Warren Morgan, will be calling for clarity and action at the city’s Health and Wellbeing Board on 9 December. He will say:
A BMA survey this year showed that six in ten GPs are considering early retirement, and this closure in my ward highlights the consequences when that happens. Patients are now scrambling for places at other surgeries, often some distance from where they live, whilst others wait for the health authorities to find a place for them. From what we can gather, the health authorities won’t.
This closure will put other GP surgeries under huge pressure at a time when we are asking them to do more in terms of cancer screening, smoking cessation and other public health priorities. The surgery which is closing is within sight of the Sussex County, and could add pressure on an already stretched A&E. Further retirements or closures would put the system under intolerable strain in the east of the city. NHS England and the local Clinical Commissioning Group need to grasp this situation urgently.
Recent figures have shown that the numbers of doctors training to take up GP practice are at their lowest for seven years, sparking fears there will soon be too few GPs to cope with the demands of a growing and ageing population. Waiting times are anticipated to increase to two weeks by April next year.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was forced to admit this week that he had to take his own children to A&E because he couldn't get a GP appointment after his Government scrapped GP access targets.
Nationally Labour increased the number of GPs by 8,106, from 27,811 in 1996/7 to 35,917 in 2009/10, by pouring money into the service. Since 2009/10 the total of GPs has fallen to 35,561. Under the Coalition, the numbers of GPs leaving to work abroad has doubled.
Labour has pledged to invest an extra £100 million a year in family doctor practices, and will give all NHS patients contacting their surgery the right to:
- Consult a doctor or a nurse at their local GP surgery on the same day.
- Get an appointment at their surgery on the same day if they need to be seen quickly.
- Have a guaranteed appointment at their GP surgery within 48 hours.
- Book an appointment more than 48 hours ahead with the GP of their choice.