Dr Jitendra Patel
DOCTORS’ BASE LIES EMPTY AS SURGERY SHUTS
Medical centre ‘mothballed’ but patients face search for new GP
ANGER mounted this week over the “scandal” of a new purpose-built medical practice which has remained empty for two years – while yet another GP surgery in Highbury announced it is closing.
Patients launched a campaign on Wednesday to press Islington Primary Care Trust to open the empty doctors’ centre in Holloway – built as part of the Arsenal Emirates stadium deal – to reduce GP queues.
Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn joined the campaign following an announcement that Dr Jitendra Patel’s surgery at Highbury Park is closing after 25 years in March when he retires. He is not being replaced.
The empty medical centre in Hornsey Street has capacity for 4,000 patients and 60 staff, but it remains “mothballed”.
Dr Patel’s surgery, with more than 2,300 patients, is the fourth to close in the area within a year at a time when campaigners say the population is increasing and patients’ lists are getting longer.
Highbury West Labour councillor Richard Greening said Dr Patel would be sadly missed by the community. He added: “The PCT say they have sufficient doctors in the area but I don’t know of many.”
Cllr Greening wrote to the PCT for a list of all doctors but it returned a document showing 200 GPs with only 100 identified by name. He added: “When I asked for the names of the new GPs I was told that information wasn’t available.”
He is “appalled” that the new medical centre remains empty despite people moving into new flats at Highbury Square and Drayton Park.
Local pharmacist Anjana Patel, in business for 21 years, said her customers were not happy about the surgery closure.
She added:”We have a petition with hundreds of names calling for Dr Patel to be replaced. The PCT is more interested in cutting costs than the needs of patients.”
Martin Jones, chairman of Highbury Fields Association, said: “Islington is the second most densely populated borough in the UK. We desperately need more doctors and dentists and infrastructure to cope. Our planners are showing a complete lack of foresight.”
Mr Corbyn campaigned last year over the closure of Medicine House, a surgery on the Andover estate, in Finsbury Park, after the death of popular GP Dr Mrigendra Nandi.
He said: “I am very concerned about the loss of any GP facility.
“It causes disruption to the patients and we need to ensure there is an effective plan in place for a replacement so there’s no gap in treatment.”
A spokeswoman for the PCT said Dr Patel was operating single-handedly from premises which do not meet “acceptable disabled access standards and are below NHS minimum standards”.
She added: “Unfortunately, the logistics of the Highbury Park building are such that it is restricted in terms of growth, modernisation and the range of services that can be offered there.
“The building is also on a relatively steep hill, has a step up to the front and narrow internal passageways which severely reduce access to disabled patients and parents with buggies.
“The PCT has a long-standing policy to not replace single-handed practices with another single-handed practice. We believe that group practices provide a wider range of services and offer better patient care, for example, giving patients a choice of a female doctor.”
The spokeswoman said that the PCT is confident there is sufficient local capacity to redistribute Dr Patel’s registered Islington patients.
“There are nine practices operating in the vicinity of Dr Patel’s practice, four within a half-mile radius and five within a one-mile radius,” she added. “They are all very keen to grow their patient lists, and have the capacity to do so. In most cases, it is likely that a patient’s journey time and ease of access to another local GP will remain similar.”
The PCT says GP provision is ample in the borough, with 207 doctors working in Islington, and that it is increasing all the time. This represents a 100 per cent increase in the number of doctors on the Islington medical list since 2003, it maintains