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Retired doctor claims Folkestone is suffering from GP shortages

A retired doctor says Folkestone is in the midst of a GP crisis following news another surgery in the town will shut.

Dr Altaf Hossain disputes claims that there are now more GPs serving the district than three years ago, as suggested by Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins.

Dr Altaf Hossain, formerly of Guildhall Surgery, says the situation has worsened since he retired
Dr Altaf Hossain, formerly of Guildhall Surgery, says the situation has worsened since he retired

It comes after Mr Collins tried to reassure residents that they will not be affected by the closure of Park Farm Surgery, which is due to shut next month.

In his column for KentOnline's sister publication Folkestone & Hythe Express, the MP said the NHS will allocate additional funds to support other Folkestone practices, and added there are more doctors working in Folkestone and Hythe now than three years ago.

But Dr Hossain, who worked at Guildhall Surgery, in Guildhall Street, for more than 40 years, says this is not the case.

He retired three years ago and has yet to be replaced, neither has another of his colleagues who has also left.

Dr Hossain, 78, said: "Guildhall Surgery has a list size of around 9,800 and is being run by mostly part-time and locum GPs.

Park Farm Surgery is due to shut in March
Park Farm Surgery is due to shut in March

"The feedback I am getting from my ex-colleagues is that because of GP shortages the existing doctors are finding it more and more difficult to cope, whilst my ex-patients are always telling me how difficult it is to get an appointment at the surgery."

As well as the coming closure of Park Farm Surgery in Alder Road, which has 3,000 registered patients and is run by Dr Abhijit Neil Banik, the Folkestone East Family Practice in Dover Road closed in 2017 due to overstretched services and concerns over providing safe care. It had nearly 5,000 patients.

Park Farm patients have been told by the South Kent Coast clinical commissioning group (SKC CCG) they will be able to register at a new surgery.

But Dr Hossain, of Avereng Gardens in Folkestone, says no new GPs will move to Folkestone due to the state of some of the current surgeries.

Instead surgeries are having to rely on locums or part time staff, which costs the NHS more money and means patients lack a "continuity of service".

Folkestone East Family Practice closed in 2017
Folkestone East Family Practice closed in 2017

Furthermore, he says Guildhall Surgery has been promised renovations for over a decade, but the work has seen repeated delays and hold ups.

Dr Hossain said: "GPs are like any other working person. We want somewhere nice to work.

"The surgery is still waiting for new premises.

"In the meantime they are having to put desks and computers into the staff kitchen, as they have run out of space.

"What has actually happened since I retired is that even more doctors have also retired and another surgery is closing.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe
Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe

"I cannot believe Dr Banik is packing up just for fun; I presume he cannot cope with the workload and must be under a great deal of stress, as are most of the doctors in this area.

"The claim by Mr Collins that, after all these practice closures and a few GPs retiring, we still have appointments readily available is surprising."

Mr Collins said the information he provided in his column about more doctors and additional support for Folkestone was presented to him by Dr Jonathan Bryant, chair of the SKC CCG, during a meeting.

He added: "The opening of the new medical school for East Kent this autumn will also see more doctors working in GP surgeries."

This is anticipated to open at the University of Kent in September.

The CCG has been approached for a comment.

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