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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Doctor quits 'shabby' NHS
Doctor writing prescription
Dr Allen says he has little time with patients
A family doctor in Kent has resigned in frustration at "sub-standard" conditions in the NHS.

Dr Ricky Allen's decision to work overseas has come only days after the British Medical Association launched a campaign over sinking morale in general practice.

He said he had given up waiting for improvements to the "shabby" health centre in Aylesham, a former mining village near Canterbury.

A spokesman for the East Kent Health Authority said: "We would be extremely disappointed to lose a doctor who is effective and highly regarded, both by his patients and by the profession."


The health authority and others are only to happy to convene meetings every few months, but in the meantime my patients are suffering

Dr Ricky Allen
Dr Allen said: "It is not because I am looking for sunshine. It is because I am looking for a professional environment in which I can provide a good service."

He cited the case of a doctor from Herne Bay, Kent, who recently moved to Australia. "I see a patient every five to seven minutes here, which is no time at all. He sees one patient every 15 to 20 minutes.

"I spend much of my day just nudging people along, dishing out painkillers, when their fundamental problems are not being solved."

Recruitment crisis

Dr Allen, who is divorced with a nine-month-old daughter, is preparing to leave the country but has not yet decided where to go. He is taking Spanish lessons.

His colleague, Dr Jey Kumar Ariyaratnam, would find it extremely difficult to recruit a new partner before his departure next March, he added.

The BMA has said that many junior doctors and medical students are refusing to consider careers in general practice because of increasing bureaucracy.

Hip joint replacements
Hip replacement lists are long
"Our health centre was designed for one doctor, but houses two," Dr Allen went on. "It is fairly shabby. Privacy and security are inadequate.

"We have had promises of improvements from the health secretary down. The health authority and others are only to happy to convene meetings every few months, but in the meantime my patients are suffering."

The health authority spokesman said he was confident problems with the building would be solved.

Failed vision

Aylesham's community grew in the 1920s when miners came from Wales and the North to work the Snowdown colliery, which closed in 1987. A visionary scheme for a new town never materialised.

Dr Allen said: "We have people who need hips replaced or cataracts removed. They are elderly people - and they are put on a one-year waiting list.

"Even waiting lists for initial investigations are too long.

"I recently had an elderly patient who chose to pay for a cataract operation. She is a miner's widow who can barely afford to feed her cat.

"The miners of Aylesham had money stopped from their pay in the 1930s and 40s to help build the local hospital. But this lady is using the last of her savings to avoid going there."

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See also:

14 May 01 | Health
GPs highlight 'crisis in care'
01 May 01 | Health
Doctors protest over workload
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