Doctors who are open all hours

RECENTLY I went to Stratford Village GP surgery for a vaccination. It has a quiet, business-like atmosphere. While there, I caught up with Ashwin Shah, the long-serving GP. Dr Shah is the interim chair of Newham Primary Care Trust s professional executiv

RECENTLY I went to Stratford Village GP surgery for a vaccination.

It has a quiet, business-like atmosphere. While there, I caught up with Ashwin Shah, the long-serving GP.

Dr Shah is the interim chair of Newham Primary Care Trust's professional executive committee which provides medical advice to the Trust.

He showed me round his newly expanded surgery, created by knocking his existing premises together with the building next door, and explained to me that he will be providing a wider range of more accessible services.


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He told me the latest news about extended opening hours in Newham - the Government's commitment to enable GP surgeries to offer more convenient hours to patients.

Newham is a pioneer in extended opening. For the past three months Stratford Village Surgery has been open until 9pm on a Thursday, and on a Saturday from 9am till noon. From next week, Thursday opening will be extended to 10pm. Dr Shah told me that, eventually, he expects his surgery to be open seven days per week, up to 9pm - and later still, if there is demand.

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Four other Newham practices in Newham Health Partnership, which covers 120,000 residents, are operating similar extended hours at present - Lathom Road, East Ham; Lord Lister Health Centre, Forest Gate; Dr Basu's surgery at 61 Plashet Road, Plaistow, and Dr Jim Lawrie's Royal Docks surgery at 21 East Ham Manor Way, Beckton.

And other practices in Newham are starting to do it too. Details can be obtained from the Patient Extended Care Hotline on (020) 7511 2075.

Altogether, more than 80 per cent of Newham patients now have access to care through extended hours - one of the highest proportions anywhere in the country.

I first met Dr Shah in the mid-1990s when I was a new MP, and Newham GPs were struggling with the then Government's insistence that they become 'fundholders'.

The Government wanted GPs to compete with each other - but in Newham, they wanted to work together. So they came up with the Newham Multifund. It complied with rules on 'fundholding', so qualified for extra Government help, but it also enabled them to co-operate instead of working against each other.

And, together now with Newham Primary Care Trust, using the Government's model of practice-based commissioning, the collaboration is being developed further. And patient care in Newham is being improved as a result.

In the House of Commons, I hear the Conservatives demanding huge spending cuts. I think they have got the economics wrong and that we need to be supporting the economy through the current difficulties. But it's certain that improvements like these in the health service would be the first casualty if we were to take their advice.

lMany congratulations to Steve Brayshaw, new councillor for Royal Docks ward, with a majority, - after a superb, hard-fought by-election campaign - of 15 votes. It reminds me of the by-election 25 years ago in Little Ilford ward when I was first elected by a similar margin. It's a great way to start!

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