Activists have donned Halloween outfits as part of their Zombies Against The Cuts protest campaign over changes to NHS services in east Kent.
The group, pictured outside The Limes Medical Centre, say the Margate surgery is struggling after two nearby GP practices closed. They say they are highlighting further cuts planned under the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), dubbed “slash, trash and privatise.”
Members of the group also demonstrated outside the Theatre Royal before the ‘Lefty Scum‘ performance on Saturday.
The STP, created by Kent and Medway health trusts, the NHS, Kent County Council and Medway Council, sets out proposals to overhaul the health system, including changes to GP surgeries and hospitals.
One of the proposals in the STP is to replace Thanet’s 17 GP surgeries with 4 extended practices, serving a catchment of between 30-60,000 patients, and a medical hub.
Margate ward councillor Ian Venables, who supports the group, said: “People should be more afraid of plans for health services in Thanet. We want to make sure people don’t zombie walk into closures.
“This is scary stuff. Imagine what will happen when there’s less local services. Each day that passes is scarier than Halloween for our precious NHS.”
Pauline Farrance, part of Zombies Against The Cuts, added: “Oversubscribing is now a massive problem in Thanet and in some surgeries it is impossible to book an appointment. Surgeries have had to take patients from other GP practices that have already closed and yet there’s plans to radically reduce the number even further.”
She added a shortage of people wanting to become GPs in the area made the situation worse.
According to the STP: “There are very high levels of vacancies across primary care in Kent and Medway, with an estimated 136 GP vacancies across the area (12% of the total number of GPs), and 53% have been vacant for more than a year.
“This creates a dependency on locum GPs – on average locum doctors constitute 8% of the GP workforce in Kent and Medway. The situation is likely to get worse as 30% of GPs in the area are aged 55 and over and are therefore expected to retire in the next 10 years . This is compared to 22% nationally.
“Furthermore, there are challenges in recruiting practice nurses; every single one of the vacancies reported in a recent survey of practices been open for more than 6 months.”
The STP says extended practices will provide enhanced in-hours primary care and enable more evening and weekend appointments and hubs will offer multi-disciplinary teams delivering physical and mental health services locally at greater scale and seven day integrated health and social care.
The aim is to overhaul the NHS estate and save health services in Kent and Medway some £292million.
Find out more
Information about Zombies Against The Cuts, part of Save Our NHS in Kent (SONik), via Pauline Farrance at firstname.lastname@example.org