THe ‘West End Extra’ reports;
SENIOR NHS staff were grilled by council health chiefs this week after it emerged three Westminster GP surgeries are facing closure.
More than 10,000 patients at Soho Square General Practice, and West Two Health and Milne House Medical Centre, both in Paddington, could be distributed between existing surgeries when funding is cut.
Cllr David Harvey, who led the council’s health scrutiny committee on Wednesday night, said: “We are particularly concerned for elderly and vulnerable residents, in many cases frail, who will find the idea of a new GP daunting.”
He demanded the NHS set up a “taskforce” to give the thousands of patients “a secure answer as soon as possible, and if needs be, to be hands-on in getting them to meet a new GP”.
Doctors in Soho Square only discovered their surgery was to be axed when staff at a neighbouring practice said they had been approached by the NHS and asked if they had room to take extra patients.
An alliance of residents’ groups in the West End – including the Soho Society, Covent Garden Community Association, Westminster LGBT Forum and the Chinese Community Centre – have arranged an emergency meeting to “discuss how best to contest the withdrawal of this vital community service”. They also demanded an NHS representative attend to answer patients’ questions at Soho Parish School on Thursday.
The Central London Community Healthcare Trust (CLCH) – a local arm of the NHS that finances Soho Square and Milne House – confirmed this week that they will cut funding to both in September.
At the same time, Nicola Langdon, the sole doctor at West Two Health, has chosen to retire and sell her office.
Responsibility for all the affected patients will then fall to the overarching healthcare body, NHS England, who have said they are considering all possible options, including closing the practices and dividing the 10,000 patients between existing surgeries. They have promised to consult all patients on the options.
Leslie Hardcastle, the chairman of the Soho Society, said there was widespread concern about what level of service will replace the surgery and said the two doctors, Stephen Chee-Kin Cheung and Louis Daniel Brassey, were “very popular”. He added: “We would like them to continue, they give a good service and breaking that up is a very worrying thing.”
Christine Yau, chairwoman of the Chinese Community Centre in Gerrard Street, raised concerns about healthcare for the area’s large Chinese community.
“You can imagine the impact, 40 per cent of the patients are Chinese speakers and a lot of them are elderly people,” she added.
“It is such a blessing to have Dr Cheung there.”
A spokesman for CLCH said: “As part of our routine business planning, we have decided that we no longer wish to provide this service and we have, therefore, given notice, as required.
“We will continue to run a wide range of other community services at Soho, including the popular Walk-in Centre.”
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “We are looking at existing GP services in the area, to establish the viability of either re-procuring the contracts or dispersing the patient list, and reinvesting into existing primary care services.
“NHS England has made no formal decision about the future of these services.”
A meeting will be held at Soho Parish School in Great Windmill Street on Thursday, July 3 at 6.30pm, for patients of the Soho Square surgery.