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Stortford doctors lambast town council over 'lamentable' treatment



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South Street Surgery Picture: Vikki Lince
South Street Surgery Picture: Vikki Lince

Bishop's Stortford town councillors were given a dose of their own medicine - with a painful injection of reality from GPs about the future of healthcare in the face of a population explosion.

General Views, Bishops Stortford. Church Street Surgery. Pic: Vikki Lince
General Views, Bishops Stortford. Church Street Surgery. Pic: Vikki Lince

Bishop’s Stortford town councillors were given a dose of their own medicine this week – with a painful injection of reality from GPs about the future of healthcare in the face of a population explosion.

Doctors from the Church Street and South Street practices told members on Monday last week (Dec 18) that the council’s criticism about “lamentable” service was a bitter pill to swallow.

The medics were called to a meeting of the full council after a national customer satisfaction survey ranked Church Street Surgery 7,064th out of 7,372 nationally and South Street 6,630th.

After members of the council’s localism and strategy committee were told the town’s much smaller Parsonage Surgery ranked 464th – “a notably superior result” – while Much Hadham Health Centre had the best result in Herts, they asked for an explanation.

Backed by colleagues and patients, Church Street’s Dr Sian Stanley gave an impassioned response: “I have worked across the country and these are good doctors, these are not lamentable doctors. We are not 100% perfect, but it’s not for the want of trying.”

She warned councillors that Stortford’s doctors were already “maxed out” yet thousands of new houses were being built and “at no time have we been engaged with about who is going to look after these new patients”. She said: “We are just expected to get on with it and then everybody criticises when they don’t get all they want.”

Dr Stanley called on the councillors to play their part and to help ensure that funding provided by developers as a condition of planning permission actually improved healthcare facilities in the town.

The Carr-Hill allocation formula used by the NHS to finance care discriminates against Bishop’s Stortford as an affluent area and means that 3,500 of 20,000 patients in the town are effectively being treated with no funding.

Dr Stanley said the calculation was a “swizz” and the population was being short-changed by the Government while doctors were forced to operate from premises that were not fit for purpose.

The cumulative effect of these pressures was to make it almost impossible to attract and retain enough GPs in such a hostile environment with high housing costs as an added disincentive.

She told councillors that their attitude and negative publicity was exacerbating the problems: “I’m asking you very nicely to stop the criticism.”

South Street’s Dr Nabeil Shukur elaborated, explaining that while patient funding in the NHS Clinical Commissioning Group area was £87 per patient on average, his practice received £68 while surgeries in east London may get as much as £103. As a semi-rural surgery, Much Hadham gets a better deal than Stortford. This limited budget affects the practices’ ability to attract and retain enough doctors to serve both a rapidly expanding and ageing population.

South Street’s Dr Sarah Dixon gave the council a presentation outlining the pressures both under-fire practices face providing 3,000 appointments a week between them – and their action plan to give patients the best care. This includes hiring a pharmacist and physician associates to try to cover the current GP shortage.

She said: “We are very committed to adapting our practices to meet the changing needs of our patients.”

After hearing that the satisfaction survey related to just 1% of the population and focused on patients’ response to being able to see a specific doctor – inevitably harder in the larger surgeries now favoured by the Government – a chastened town council pledged to work with the practices.



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