‘No polyclinics! Save our surgeries!’ shouted over fifty Rugby GPs, medical staff and supporters during a town centre protest on Saturday.
Carrying banners and wearing T-shirts saying ‘save your surgery’, the protesters marched into Rugby’s Market Square, where they handed out leaflets and collected more signatures for a petition opposing privately run polyclinics.
GP John Marlow from Clifton Road surgery told News Line: ‘We’re making a stand against the government’s plan to open polyclinics across the country and replace family doctors.
‘I think it will be detrimental to the people that need the health service, especially the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.
‘Polyclinics will be privately run and would put shareholders first, not patients.
‘At the moment, GPs look after people from the cradle to the grave.
‘With polyclinics, you will lose continuity of care.
‘Patients won’t be able to see the same doctor that knows them. It will cause a breakdown of trust.
‘At the moment, GPs are the most efficient part of the NHS.
‘Polyclinics would be much more expensive and shift work to private treatment centres.
‘We are taking a stand against it. The government plans to have at least one polyclinic in every PCT by next April.
‘We have to stop this now.’
Anita Chatterjee, a GP at Whitehall Medical Practice, Rugby, added: ‘With polyclinics, we would lose continuity of care.
‘We believe they will be run privately. The medicine doctors practice will be answerable to shareholders whose only remit is profit.
‘Am I frightened of losing my practice? – Yes I am!
‘It provides so much for the community.
‘The petition we are handing to our local MP Jeremy Wright has been signed by seven per cent of the Rugby population in just three weeks, that’s 63,000 signatures.
‘The British Medical Association (BMA) has started to make all practitioners aware of what is happening.
‘We are demonstrating to show our concern for patients.’
David Shore, GP in Brinklow village, near Rugby, said: ‘I’m taking the opportunity to warn and inform the residents of Rugby of the proposed threat to their family surgery.
‘The proposed polyclinics threaten local GP and hospital services.
‘The polyclinics will steal funding from GPs and hospitals to go into privately run, profit making polyclinics.
‘It’s shifting public money into private pockets and it’s a Labour government that’s doing it.
‘GPs are a very mild bunch. To get fifty GPs plus supporters onto the street, this must be very significant.
‘Who do you trust – the GPs or the politicians?’
Heather Barnes GP, Bennfield surgery, Rugby, told News Line: ‘I’m extremely concerned about the future of the traditional family practice following the patient from the cradle to the grave.
‘I feel that patients deserve to see nurses and doctors who know them and their families well, therefore providing full and holistic healthcare.’
GP John Derrick from Westside Medical Centre, said: ‘The government’s plans to set up polyclinics are mad.
‘They will be more expensive and less effective and less personal than our current arrangements.
‘I’m here at this event to raise the profile of the government’s plans.
‘The danger is they will be implemented before people realise what’s happening and it will be too late.
‘There should be a national campaign to raise the profile of the proposal, to make it clear to the government how opposed people are to the proposals to sell primary care to multi-national corporations.’
Dr Jagmohan Ahluwalia, Whitehall Road Medical Practice, said: ‘We are here to protest as a group of GPs and staff, mainly to protest against polyclinics, and also the imposed extended hours.
‘My concern is extended hours are OK for some practices but not for all.
‘My main concern is polyclinics are a step towards the privatisation of the NHS.
‘Most GPs haven’t got the resources to run polyclinics as they will be taken over by private companies like Tesco, Boots and Virgin.’
Dr Robyn Crighton from Bennfield Surgery, added: ‘I’ve been a GP for 19 years in Rugby.
‘I know my patients highly value to continuity of care that myself and my colleagues can give them.
‘This comes from knowing the patients and their families for so long.
‘I’m very fearful this valuable practice of continuity of care will be lost if polyclinics are brought in.
‘The government want to get rid of the traditional GP in favour of having big clinics that will probably fragment healthcare.
‘On top of this, these clinics will be privately run.
‘The people running polyclinics will have as their concern profit for their shareholders.
‘We don’t want polyclinics. We want to keep the traditional family doctor service, which has proven it can adapt and change according to local needs.
‘The doctors’ union should make the public far more aware of the proposed changes.’
Practice manager Avril Hurst from Westside Medical Centre, said: ‘I’m here to support the surgeries and make people aware of what is going on.
‘The government is working towards privatising general medical services.
‘We believe they haven’t been completely honest with what they are saying.
‘We haven’t had the publicity to put our point of view across, so this is what today is all about.’
Student nurse Danielle Cierniak added: ‘I want to stop all the surgeries closing in the rural villages.
‘There will be no continuity of care with polyclinics.
‘Doctors in polyclinics won’t have a clue who patients are, and patients will be put off.
‘The elderly and disabled with no transport won’t be able to get to the clinics, and there will be no out-of-hours call out.
‘The GP came to my grandad four times a day, even in the early hours, when he was dying.
‘You wouldn’t get that with a polyclinic.’
School youth Matthew Hodds, 14, said: ‘It’s rotten what the government are doing to doctors.
‘I want to see my family doctor, not people I don’t know at a polyclinic.
‘I want to see someone I know and can trust when I’m not well.’
Matthew’s mother Liz Hodds, a Whitehall Medical Practice GP, said: ‘What the government is planning is a shame for the patients.
‘I know my patients really well and what they’ve been through. I have a relationship with them.
‘That’s a big thing that would go with polyclinics.
‘And they are being bought by private companies – Virgin and Care UK are very interested to bid for the whole lot.
‘The BMA must take a stand and organise national action. I’d like to see a national march on parliament.
‘The TUC should take action to defend GPs. We can’t go on strike and leave our patients, the unions must help us.’
Wine and spirit merchant John Whittaker said: ‘My wife is a GP. When I met her 20 years ago when she was 19, she always wanted to be a GP.
‘Polyclinics would jeopardise her life’s wishes.
‘You don’t get the personal attention and care from a polyclinic that you get from a family doctor.
‘It’s about privatising the NHS and I can’t see polyclinics being able to give the level of care that’s needed.
‘Patients will suffer. The government we’ve got are not socialists, they don’t care about people.’
Dr Reynolds said: ‘We are fighting the polyclinic idea that the government is bringing out through the Darzi plan.
‘The idea that there should be a large building containing many GPs and physiotherapists and pharmacy, etc.
‘There are three already approved in Coventry, threatening a lot of singlehanded GPs, and bringing in cheaper GPs from abroad to work in these polyclinics.
‘It undermines the whole ethos of cradle to grave care and continuity of care.
‘One has just been set up in a Sainsbury’s just outside Manchester.
‘Potentially Virgin healthcare are going round touting for these polyclinics.
‘We need to bring it to the public’s attention. The government are going for cheapness, rather than quality for the patients.’
Local GP Dr Lesli Davies said: ‘The aim of our protest is to stop big business privatisation of general practice.
‘The government wants to introduce polyclinics, likely to be run by big businesses which put shareholders before patients.
‘That’s the crux of it. The patients will suffer, especially those with chronic and terminal illnesses and those with mental health problems.
‘I think the government wants to privatise the NHS.
‘We’re telling the public what polyclinics are. Otherwise, people will wake up one morning and find the NHS is gone. We’re starting now, before it’s too late.’
GP training registrar Dr Kotnani added: ‘I’ve come to support today because I don’t think polyclinics are a good idea.
‘Yesterday it said in one of the GP journals, that foundation doctors would be working in polyclinics. It is about a cheap workforce.
‘For young people coming into medicine today, it is a very uncertain future.’
Another GP said that there has been a longrunning campaign in Rugby to keep The Hospital of Saint Cross open in the town. This still provides some A&E services, some outpatient clinics and some medical inpatient and rehabilitation beds.