People power in action as future of Ilford GP fought over

Councillors are giving their backing to the battle to keep a neighbourhood surgery open when a GP retires.

Patients of Dr Branko Kalebic at the Garden Surgery, The Drive, Ilford, attended a “drop in session” intended to help them find a new GP.

But the event on Thursday descended into chaos when it was overwhelmed by hundreds of disgruntled people who turned up at the small practice.

The meeting, which was moved from the surgery to a church hall opposite, ended with an intervention from Cllr Michelle Dunn, deputy leader of the Conservative group, who cancelled the “farce” meeting and called on the local NHS to hold two full public meetings to discuss the surgery’s future.

Cllr Dunn said: “What happened demonstrates the strength of feeling and that it is a very well used surgery. I don’t see why the surgery can’t continue somehow.”

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Cranbrook ward Cllr Mahboob Chaudhary was also present at the meeting. He said he received a number of calls from concerned residents, many of who were elderly.

He added: “We need to keep this surgery open.”

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One patient said she thought there may have been up to 300 people at the meeting.

Sandra Field, of Poplar Way, Barkingside, said: “It was really good because people were voicing their opinions. They [the local NHS] seemed shocked because they weren’t expecting so many people.

“Everyone at the meeting wanted the surgery to stay open. They were all very cross.”

Dr Kalebic will retire on September 1, after 25 years service at the one-doctor surgery.

A spokesman for NHS Outer North East London (ONEL) said the engagement session was “certainly very busy”.

He added: “We didn’t underestimate the strength of opinion. We understand that changing GPs can make some patients anxious and our staff worked hard all afternoon, talking to patients and alleviating many of their fears.”

Six surgeries nearby are making provisions to take up the 2,700 patients currently on Dr Kalebic’s list and help is available form the NHS patient advice and liaison service on 0800 0926 995.

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