Health chiefs keep quiet over GP practice inquiry

Health chiefs have said they will not respond to the findings of a public enquiry into the controversial closure of a GP surgery in Camden until September.

The final report of the public enquiry held by Camden Council into the closure of Camden Road Practice in Camden Town was published last Wednesday (June 28) and listed a catalogue of errors by NHS North Central London in its handling of the closure.

Theses included “a lack of adequate planning” to find alternative premises for the surgery, which was closed in April leaving more than 4,500 patients without a GP.

A contract to run the surgery was handed to American private healthcare firm United Health in 2008.

The report also pointed to a “serious loophole” in contract terms and conditions which allowed the surgery to be transferred from United Health to another private provider The Practice plc before its closure.

The council’s health scrutiny panel, which conducted the enquiry and spent a month listening to evidence **CHECK**, also found the “manner and timing” of the closure led to “unnecessary anxiety” for patients and increased pressure on neighbouring practices.

It said that NHS North Central London should accept the need for a replacement surgery in the area, which is described as having a high level of deprivation, and work with the council to consider opening another surgery in Maiden Lane, Camden Town.

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Bosses at NHS North Central London, who failed to attend the Town Hall meeting which discussed the report, remained tight-lipped about whether they would open a new surgery but said Camden Road Practice would remain permanently closed.

A spokeswoman said: “NHS North Central London has been working closely with the council throughout the process and we have agreed with the council that we will formally respond to the report in September.

“The premises of Camden Road Surgery have now been returned to residential use and it is not possible to open another GP practice on this site.”

Members of Camden Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), who campaigned for the inquiry to be held, welcomed the recommendations.

Candy Unwin, Camden KONP chairwoman, said: “I think the report has been very useful in summarising what the problems are and what needs to happen.

“The next step is to make NHS North Central London act on these recommendations, because the need for a replacement surgery is still urgent.”

Former patients of the surgery were happy with the findings but were concerned the NHS would not follow through on the recommendations.

Harriet Wichtowski, 48, added: “I feel cynical that NHS London are going to respond to any of the recommendations in reality, for example putting a new practice in the area.”