Let me introduce myself .My name is Grace and I need urgent help. I am a National Health Service patient and, along with my fellow patients of the fantastic Sudbury GP surgery in Wembley. I have been put up for sale by NHS England. The same NHS England that loves to talk about "patient choice" but all NHS England really care about is "the market in healthcare".
BUT I TALK - AND CARE - ABOUT MY FAMILY DOCTORS WHO KEEP ME WELL AND GIVE ME THE CARE MY COUNTRY PROMISED ME FOR WORKING AND LIVING IN THIS COUNTRY - FOR LIFE, CRADLE TO GRAVE.
I live in the London Borough of Brent, an area where we already have a shortage of GPs, more GPs retiring , and a largely deprived population which is expected to expand over the next 5 years by about 80,000 people.
I suffer from a range of major health issues which means that I live my life in a wheelchair. Don't get me wrong. I have a good and happy life – or I did until NHS England decided – without asking me – that it would be a good idea to take away from me the Family Doctors who have cared for me for the last 14 years. GP's who I would follow ,if they moved halfway across the country – but my wheelchair bound status makes that pretty tricky.
To add insult to injury, I have already had one fight - alongside my fellow patients - lasting 9 years, and including threatened legal action against the NHS, to keep my Doctors from being tendered out for sale before. That fight - I thought - ended in 2013. So WHY is Sudbury Surgery Patient List again "up for sale", and my fragile care threatened?
NOT TO SAVE MONEY. THE NEW CONTRACT WILL COST NHS ENGLAND £70,0000 A YEAR MORE.
NOT BECAUSE OUR GPS AND THEIR TEAM ARE NO GOOD – although senior officials in NHS England London region (including the Boss) wrote telling my MP, my local councillors and a Brent patient group that they were not "performing" - ridiculous allegations they have since had to withdraw.
NOT BECAUSE IT IS HARD FOR ME TO GET AN APPOINTMENT WITH MY GP – no, we are known in Brent for having fantastic service from our surgery.
NOT BECAUSE OF INADEQUATE SERVICES -We have EXTRA SERVICES, like in-house professional counselling sessions every week, a GP specially trained in mental health services, a specialist diabetic clinic and diabetic nurse, methadone prescribing service, minor surgery, acupuncture and were just about to start the practice as a GP training practice. Our practice also hosts a walk-in blood testing clinic, and the out of hours "overflow" GP appointments for our locality. Sudbury Surgery does a fantastic service for the community, IN the community. It is run by a not for profit social enterprise.
NO, I have been put up for sale because MY DOCTORS ARE JUST TOO GOOD. Since their social enterprise got the contract 3 short years ago, the patient list has grown from 5000 to 8600, and is still growing. How I wish it had stayed at less than 6000!
Why, you ask me? Because, at less than 6000 patients, apparently, according to NHSE England, a "patient list" is "unattractive to the market" . Market, what market ? The market to which my surgery and the 15 other practices in "Tranche 4 London GP practices" NHS England gleefully advertised as the "greatest number of opportunities to potential providers yet" -when it held a "market engagement event" helpfully timed when our GPs were serving their patients in surgery. Bulk sale opportunity! Does it sound as though NHS England is interested in keeping the practice with our ordinary, caring, hardworking GPs? Those companies who attended the "event" included (off-shore) Virgin Healthcare (who wanted us last time), Care UK, and The Practice Group (who have just "bulk" handed back 5 GP practices in Sussex to the NHS (meaning of course the patients in their patient lists) after taking them over, when their funding was cut - there's a reassuring precedent).
When we realised what was happening, Sudbury Surgery's patients got together, had meetings, wrote many long letters to NHSE, and to NHS (so-called) Improvement who is supposed to regulate "competition" in the NHS, demonstrated outside the Department of Health, NHS England, attracted newspaper attention and explained to and collected the signatures of over 3700 INDIVIDUAL PATIENTS to a petition saying "NHS ENGLAND PLEASE GO AWAY AND LEAVE US WITH THE GPS WHO HAVE CARED FOR US FOR OVER 14 YEARS". We have struggled for 9 months using every avenue open to us.
HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE? NO. So now I am calling on David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt and The Queen to intervene and ask NHS England to take my Doctors 'practice out of the tender NOW. I was promised cradle to grave care in the NHS - not to be a commodity patient - attractive to a "market". Not that I think a patient like me with complex health needs will be very attractive to a "provider" interested in "markets"
PLEASE, PLEASE LET ME AND MY FELLOW SUDBURY SURGERY PATIENTS KEEP THE DOCTORS THEY LOVE, and save the NHS £70,000 a year .