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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Deprived areas do have high quality GPs

I am writing to express my disappointment with the comment about Peckham GPs in an article by Dr Clare Gerada and Dr Frances Dudley ('How a modern practice can preserve continuity of care').

They said: 'The Hurley Group includes seven practices in some of the most deprived areas of London (Tower Hamlets, Lambeth and Peckham). In the past these have struggled to attract high-quality GPs, leaving large areas of the boroughs with poor access.'

We are GPs based in the oldest established practice in Peckham and we take great exception to the observation.

It implies these areas lack high-quality GPs and that poor access is a recognised and unique problem here.

I would like to challenge the reliability of these assertions. Peckham has a history of pioneering general practice, starting with the public health initiative the Peckham Experiment in the 1930s. The results of this research led to several groundbreaking initiatives such as renting farms for organic food production and the introduction of exercise regimes, influencing authorities all over the world, including the WHO.

Our practice was one of the first in south London to introduce an appointment system (in the 1930s) and to establish systems of attached health visitors, district nurses and recall for cervical smears. From the mid-1970s and early 1980s

  • onwards we introduced the following innovations:
  • attached psychiatrist
  • daily open-access surgery slots
  • acupuncturist
  • osteopath
  • welfare benefits adviser
  • in-house diabetic clinic
  • visiting consultant surgeon for minor operations.

As for 'struggling to attract high-quality GPs' - many of us are multilingual, most of us hold the MRCGP diploma, two of us have accomplished an MSc in general practice and some are GP tutors, mentors, trainers or researchers.

All of our GP colleagues are hard-working and eminently qualified to practise in these highly demanding and diversely populated areas.

Dr Gerada's stance, as vice-chair of the RCGP, is surprising indeed. When she was asked two years ago by Pulse what made her angry, she said: 'When GPs are made scapegoats for all problems of the NHS and held responsible for social inequalities and their impact on health.' We feel she is doing just that, blaming local doctors to gain publicity for her own enterprise.

From Dr Abbas Virji

Peckham, south London

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