Up to 140 of London’s 1,400 general practitioner (GP) surgeries face the threat of closure during the next three years, local health committees have warned.
This could leave hundreds of thousands of people without access to GPs.
More practices have closed every year since 2011.
East London GP Kambiz Boomla told Socialist Worker, “Lots of our practices are under the cosh because of budget cuts.
"The proportion of the NHS budget going to GPs is down from 12 percent to just 9 percent.”
The broader NHS staffing crisis is already making it harder to see GPs.
Kambiz said, “It’s very hard to recruit new doctors and nurses. So staffing pressures mean a choice is between cutting quality—and that’s not what we became GPs for—or cutting waiting lists. Most practices are being forced to stop registering new patients.
“They are looking carefully at their catchment area and trying to square the circle.”
These pressures are forcing many doctors to retire early.
The attack on surgeries is also linked to NHS boss Simon Stevens’ “five year plan” for the NHS and the privatisation drive.
Kambiz said, “This financial pressure is coupled with a move to transfer more care from hospitals to GPs. That can be a better way of providing services—but the problem is the money isn’t there.
“It’s the same as with social care. Yes, we want to have home visits—but not ones that are only 15 minutes.”
Stevens’ plan includes turning practices into “multispecialty community providers”. While run by doctors, these could easily be bought out by privateers such as United Health and Virgin.
And Kambiz warned, “With the current funding formula, the money is going into the more affluent areas.”
Health bosses are beaten in Bolton
In a blow to privatisation in the NHS, health workers and campaigners in Bolton have beaten bosses’ plans to privatise psychotherapy services.
The clinical commissioning group dropped the tender process last week, after suspending it last December following a mass campaign.
One of the campaign organisers Karen Reissmann told Socialist Worker, “This shows we can stop the privatisation and the market that costs the NHS almost £23 billion a year. That’s enough to stop all the current cuts.
“This shows you can fight and win.”