COUNCILLORS have spoken out against proposals which threaten the future of three GP surgeries in Hartlepool.
The Mail reported yesterday on a backlash to NHS plans to close Hartfields Medical Practice and merge Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries with the likely loss of one.
Councillors for the wards where the three surgeries are located have hit out at the plans.
They say the proposals go against pledges by health leaders to provide services in the community.
Hart councillor Paul Beck gave his backing to keeping Hartfields practice open when he attended a public meeting on Wednesday night.
In a joint statement, he and fellow Labour Hart councillor Jean Robinson, said: “This GP Service covers not only residents at Hartfields but also the wider community and has become an integral part of the Hart Ward.
“With an ageing population, the prospect of losing more services is unacceptable and an expectation that the frail and elderly can travel further to another surgery is unrealistic nor does it fit with the argument put forward around acute care services.
“Over recent years and months, the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust and NHS Stockton and Hartlepool CCG have made much play that the erosion of hospital services is in keeping with their agenda of providing more services within the community.
“Both the hospital trust and CCG cannot move the goalposts now. We have lost many acute services to Stockton and the people of Hartlepool should not sit back and allow an erosion of primary care services too.”
NHS England says the contracts provided by the three surgeries have not secured the patients expected in five years and are not cost effective in the long term.
But councillors Beck and Robinson pointed to 1,369 new homes due to be built in the area.
Fens councillor Geoff Lilley, of Putting Hartlepool First, blasted the proposals as a “disgrace”.
He said: “It is very obvious this is driven by money.
“We were promised that the surgery created by the Primary Care Trust was to underline primary care on the ground and help compensate for the loss of hospital services.
“To pull the rug from patients who have left existing practices to sign up to new ones is nothing short of a disgrace and a mockery of the whole system.
“I hope that the council gets together and supports all three surgeries which have a place within the communities they serve.”
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, who represents Manor House ward, urged patients to take part in an ongoing consultation with stakeholders.
He said: “Some people may feel apathetic about the consultation but what I’m saying is we need the people to fill these consultation papers in in high volume so we can argue the case.
“The people carrying out the consultation need to listen and act and maintain the services.”
Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee will discuss the outcome of the review on Friday, October 10, when it will come up with a formal response to the proposals.