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London practices close doors amid riot fears

GP surgeries in the capital have closed early this afternoon amid fears for staff and patient safety as another night of violence looms.

Joint guidance issued today by NHS London and Londonwide LMCs gave the green light for practices to close their doors, advising GPs to make their own judgement about whether they can continue to stay open. Practices were also told they must shut if advised to do so by police locally.

A page posted on Londonwide LMCs' website this afternoon said ‘the first priority is staff and patient safety', and added: ‘Practice closure is a realistic decision for practices to make and take, in the light of your own local circumstances and professionalism.'

Practice managers will be given a secure number which they can use to inform NHS London that they have closed. NHS London will then inform NHS Direct, which will be able to signpost patients in the affected area towards other health centres or out-of-hours providers.

Dr Michelle Drage, chief executive of Londonwide LMCs, said: ‘The problem in London is one of unpredictablility so it's important right now that services are flexible enough to deal with it when something erupts.'

‘Obviously we don't want practices to close for the sake of it – the emphasis is on common sense and making a judgement based on local circumstances at the time.'

Meanwhile GPs and practice staff in riot-hit areas have been sending staff home and closing early as a precaution.

Staff at the South Croydon Medical Centre in Croydon told Pulse they planned to close early as a precautionary measure, and had a number of cancellations from patients, while the Bethnal Green Health Centre in Tower Hamlets, east London, was also closing early and had asked patients to come in early for their appointments.

A receptionist at the Campshill Surgery in Lewisham, southeast London, said: ‘We closed at 6pm rather than 6.30 yesterday and rang SELDOC.'

‘We may close early today because all shops in Lewisham are closing at one, as they are expecting disturbances, but we're still planning to have our evening clinic tonight and no one has cancelled their appointments so far.'

Dr Stephen Amiel, a GP in south Islington, north London, and chair of Camden and Islington LMC, said: ‘Yesterday we sent staff home early who lived in affected areas, and we have been watchful and mindful of advice, including the LMC advice given out today.'

‘I think the advice was appropriate, it's not a war zone. People still need our help and we should give it without endangering the practice. We need proportionate measures but shouldn't go over the top.'