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East London campaign to save GP practices expands with new rally

GPs and patients will march through the streets of east London on July 5 in protest against funding cuts affecting surgeries in three London boroughs, with Unite backing the campaign.

The rally, which coincides with the 66th anniversary of the NHS, has been organised by a group of campaigners from the boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Newham, who will protest against MPIG reductions, the threat of PMS contract reviews and the overall defunding of general practice.

One of the Tower Hamlets GPs behind the intitiative, Dr Jackie Applebee, said it follows on from the ‘successful’ march through Tower Hamlets, organised earlier this month by the Jubilee Street Practice, which attracted ‘at least a thousand’ people. She said that currently 29 out of 36 practices in Tower Hamlets are flying banners outside their surgeries saying ‘Save Our Surgeries: A threat to one is a threat to all’.

She said: ‘We are very clear about this. It is not just about MPIG practices, or inner city practices, this is about the whole of general practice, we are all feeling the strain, and if some of us go under, others will not be able to pick up the workload and we will go down like dominoes.’

‘The 5 July event is really capturing people’s imaginations in east London. We have had groups of patients, GPs and practice staff out in the markets at weekends collecting signatures for our petition and publicising the rally. We have a face book page. We are leafleting mosques and the local hospitals, we are visiting local shops and cafes, leaving leaflets and petitions. We couldn’t do this on our own, but the patients have rallied behind us and are being fantastic.’

‘If we are to save general practice as we know it we need to build amongst patients and get a mass movement out on the street. We have begun to do this in east London, but need to keep the momentum going and to spread the campaign out nationwide.’

The day will see a double decker bus, with protestors on board, touring through Newham to Altab Ali Park in Tower Hamlets. GPs and patients will then march through the streets of east London to join a rally in London Fields in Hackney where there will be speakers and music to end the day.

Simon McCartney from the organising and leverage department of Unite the Union said: ‘Unite the Union has pledged to help local campaigners in east London with resources to fight against the imposition of the cuts to the MPIG… I am working with a team dedicated to work… to support this important and worthwhile campaign to help connect the various groups within the community to come together to mobilise around the fight to keep the NHS within the public sector.’

It comes as a petition to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to ‘fund general practice fairly’, launched by east London GP Dr Sarah Williams, had gathered 4,470 out of a targeted 5,000 signatures.