Confusion and stress for patients as GP surgery closes

Folkestone East Family Practice will close its doors on Tuesday (today) leaving hundreds of patients unclear about their future health welfare. The CCG have said that around 600 people who were removed from a vulnerable list provided by Folkestone East Family Practice remain unallocated to a new GP. The number of other former FEFP patients currently without a GP is unclear but the CCG claim more than 3000 have been allocated. Labour has been made aware of a number of cases where people who filled out the preference form have yet to receive news of their new GP. The lack of clarity is causing heartache, anxiety and illness for many of those affected.

Contrary to what MP Damian Collins said last month, patients not on the vulnerable list who don’t fill in a preference form will not be automatically allocated a GP.

Laura Davison, Labour Party candidate for Folkestone and Hythe in the recent General Election, has been liaising with patients who are worried they have been left behind, and raising their cases with the CCG to discuss plans to reallocate them and problems they face. Despite reassurances that patients will have a new GP, many people are left without a doctor as the surgery doors close.

Amy Johnson of Harbour Way sent her form off to the CCG the day after she received it but heard nothing. She rang the CCG at the start of half term and they had no record of her or her children being on their system, so filled in another form over the phone. She has four children, one with ongoing issues that needs regular medical care.

The CCG reported that she should have been sent a letter at the end of last week, but it had not been received at the time of writing.

Alicia Foster of East Cliff Gardens said, “This is a crisis that has been allowed to happen even though there was plenty of warning. It has been entirely and cynically mishandled. The form they sent us gave us three choices, but I have been offered a surgery that was not one of my choices, and that we left five years ago because we had such dreadful experiences with them. I’ve been told that unless I accept this allocation my children and I will be without a GP. In truth then we have been offered no choice at all.”

Ms Foster had spoken to Damian Collin MP in person at the Leas Cliff Hall about the Folkestone GP crisis and asked him if he would personally help his constituents with this issue. He said that he would and constituents should contact him. So she emailed him, but received no reply.

The CCG reported that after her call she had been reallocated to a different surgery and should have had a letter. At the time of writing no letter had been received.

Carol Harper had this to say: “I completed the form that patients were sent and it was handed it in at FEF Practice, on the same day. I have simply heard nothing. When asked if they knew anything FEFP told me I’d get a double prescription to tide me over. I tried contacting Damian Collins through his website when I’d still not heard by last week, but I got no reply from his office. Without my pain and psychiatric medications I will become unwell very quickly and I have been living in fear of that since I first heard about losing the surgery. The stress has been tremendous. I truly feel that I don’t matter.”

The CCG told Ms Davison that they needed to speak to Ms Harper directly, so Ms Davison passed on her details with her consent.

Laura Davison says, “Despite a promise from health secretary Jeremy Hunt that patients would have a good and improving GP service in Folkestone, the reality is a far cry from that. As the surgery closes its doors to local people many patients have been left in limbo. We have been contacted by people who filled in their preference forms in in good faith, but now find themselves without a surgery through no fault of their own. For some people the worry and uncertainty of the situation has made them really unwell. If you know somebody who needs help through this time please get in touch.”

The Practice Manager at Folkestone East Family Practice reported last week that the CCG requested a list of vulnerable patients and provided a list of 2320 names. Having refused to review this list, as all the patients met the vulnerable patient criteria, the list was reduced to 1143 by the CCG, leaving some of the most vulnerable patients without oversight.

The CCG have informed us that patients currently without a GP are being sent a letter reminding them to fill in the preference form. The letter will also tell people without an allocated GP that a surgery has to see them if their need is ‘immediately necessary.’

If anybody else is having problems, or you know someone who is still struggling with being allocated a new GP, Laura Davison would be happy to help. People can also contact the CCG directly to complete a form on 03000 424700 or by emailing Lines are open 9am-5pm.

Community Conference on health & care – Saturday 4 November 2pm, Christchurch School

Labour is holding a Community Conference on health & care provision on Saturday 4th October at 2pm, at Christchurch School, Brockman Road in Folkestone. There will be four speakers including a representative from Unite, and Katy Lockey of Keep Kent Breastfeeding, will be speaking about impending cuts to this valuable service. There will be the opportunity to find out what’s happening to our services locally, and to share information and ideas for action.

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