PATIENTS and politicians have made an impassioned plea to “save our surgery” after it was put at risk of closure.
NHS bosses are proposing to axe Hartfields Medical Practice in Hartlepool with over 2,000 patients having to find other GP practices.
Shocked patients attended a hastily-called meeting at Hartfields Retirement and Extra Care Village to talk about the threat after they were told by letter on Friday.
Two other practices, Fens Medical Practice and Wynyard Road Primary Care Centre, are also under review - with one to be axed and merged with the other.
The surgeries are facing possible closure because of change in how NHS contracts are awarded.
The existing Alternative Provider Medical Services (APMS) contracts were set up by the former Primary Care Trust and are due to expire next March.
Current GP commissioners NHS England say the three Hartlepool practices have not attracted the level of patients expected in five years to provide value for money.
They have recommended axing Hartfields and merging Fens and Wynyard Road - with patients forced to change their GP.
A decisionis due to be made by the Durham, Darlington and Tees Area Team of NHS England which is carrying outthe review.
The current contracts for the Fens and Wynyard Road practices are set to be extended until September 2015 and commissioners say they will continue to review the provision of services for patients affected.
Around 40 patients of the Hartfields practice, a former GP Practice of the Year winner in the Mail’s Best of Health Awards, attended the meeting of Hartfields Residents Association on Wednesday night.
It was also attended by Hartlepool MP, and Hartfields patient, Iain Wright, practice managers, and local councillors.
People were assured the proposal for Hartfields is not a “done deal” and were urged to take part in an ongoing consultation of stakeholders.
Jeff Stephens, of Hartfields’ Patient Participation Group, said: “This closure is not a done deal. We need to stand firm together and fight to keep this practice open.
“We cannot have any apathy or complacency. It’s important that everybody fills the questionnaire in.”
The NHS England consultation document states: “Doing nothing is not an option.
“Many of the GP practices that are contracted under APMS have failed to register the target patient population and present significantly less value for money compared to General Medical Services and Personal Medical Services practices.
“Therefore, we do not feel that the current arrangements are sustainable in the longer term, either for the current APMS providers or for neighbouring practices.”
The Hartfields practice has 2,201 registered patients, lower than the 6,0000 NHS England says it was expected to have achieved by March.
But patient Keith Fisher, of Clavering, Hartlepool, said: “My wife and I were appalled on Friday when the letter came saying there was any threat at all to our surgery.
“It was clearly written by a bean counter looking to save money, and it’s my money anyway.”
The Fens surgery, at Catcote Road shops, has 2,773 compared to 4,800 expected, and the Wynyard Road practice has 1,964 instead of 5,100 anticipated.
The proposal for these is to procure a new practice with patients transferring to the replacement practice.
Patients of the Fens surgery fear theirs will close in favour of Wynyard Road.
A NHS spokseman for the review team said: “APMS is one of the contracts used by area teams to enable them to commission primary medical services (GP services) and unlike other GP contracts these are time limited.
“In the Hartlepool area, the area team holds three APMS contracts in addition to having a number of existing GP practices providing services under other contractual arrangements.
“These APMS contracts were initially set up by Primary Care Trusts who were the NHS organisations with responsibility for commissioning primary medical services historically.
“The APMS contracts were originally agreed to run for a period of five years but have been extended to enable a consultation process to inform the future of the services, we would therefore encourage patients and stakeholders to respond to the consultation.
“The Durham, Darlington & Tees area team is working closely with patients, local representatives and partner organisations to understand the potential impact of any decision in relation to practice.
“It is important that the area team does not pre-empt the outcome of the consultation at this stage. The Area Team wish to obtain as many views as possible during the consultation to inform the decision from patients and other stakeholders.
“At the end of the consultation the area team will review the result of the consultation and make a decision regarding the future of services in October 2014.
“Once a decision has been made, we will write to our stakeholders letting them know the outcome of the consultation.”