Fury Over Planned Closure Of Camden Gp Surgery

Patients outside the meeting – determined to keep the surgery open
Patients outside the meeting – determined to keep the surgery open

OVER 30 angry patients denounced a sham consultation meeting by NHS managers over the imminent closure of the contracted-out Camden Town GP Surgery in north London on Thursday.

Anger erupted at the admission by Tony Hoolihan, NHS North-Central London contracts manager, that, ‘We are not consulting patients about preventing closure of the surgery – we are here to disperse you’.

His claims that no alternative clinical premises could be found in Camden town for the practice when the lease expires on April 13, were derided by patient after patient, crammed into the waiting area at the surgery premises.

Local pharmacist and patient Jagdish Vaghela, condemned the NHS manager’s position, saying: ‘Surely you knew five years ago that the lease would expire? The PCT gave the lease to United Health knowing it would expire.’

‘We want it relocated,’ demanded his pharmacy partner and wife Hansila Vaghela, a cry repeated by speaker after speaker from the floor.

Pat Morgan, a patient at the practice for 50 years, told the meeting: ‘It’s all about money.

‘United Health plc was awarded the contract and sold it to The Practice plc, which had four years to find new premises. There is a hidden agenda.

‘United Health ran down the practice and when The Practice plc took over it went from bad to worse.

‘It’s a business; The Practice plc had two other surgeries in the area and doesn’t care if the Camden Road Surgery closes down. It’s unacceptable.’

Other patients challenged Hoolihan’s claim to have searched in vain for alternative ‘clinical’ premises and that the NHS did not have the money to build or refurbish other premises.

‘The only option is to disperse the patient list to other practices. The money will follow the patients to other GP practices,’ said Hoolihan.

However, ‘the patient list’ demanded that he return to his NHS bosses and obtain the money necessary for fitting out alternative premises and rejected his talk about new linoleum and hand-wash basins being too expensive.

Douglas Russell, a GP and medical director of the NHS North-Central London, admitted: ‘We are in a redundancy situation and staff may face redundancy.’

After the meeting, patients expressed their anger to the News Line.

Moska Dowlatzay said: ‘If Dr Harbord (the freeholder) wants the premises, we want something done, not ifs and buts.

‘They should relocate and put us in temporary premises until they finalise something. There are 4,800 patients and if we go to other GPs we won’t get appointments.’

Local pharmacist Jagdish Vaghela said: ‘I think they have decided. They just came to disperse the patients. If they knew the lease was about to expire they should have looked for alternative premises two years ago.

‘There are some premises. The PCT should have found new premises. The patients have been compromised and where is the choice?

‘There is a good ethnic mix in the surgery with the majority being Bengalis and Somalis. The practice was well run before United Health took over but has gone down hill.

‘It’s privatisation. All the good doctors have gone. I think all the doctors have left due to the uncertainty of the practice.

‘Of course the situation will affect my business as many of my patients come from the surgery for their prescriptions. We have had a very good rapport with them for 29 years.’