PATIENTS at GP practices under threat of closure are being urged by campaigners not to jump ship.
NHS England is recommending it axes the GP contract provided by Hartfields Medical Practice and merging Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries with patients forced to change their GP.
It says the three Hartlepool practices have not attracted the level of patients expected in five years to provide value for money.
Many people registered with the threatened practices have strongly opposed the proposals in an ongoing consultation exercise with stakeholders.
But campaigners fear patients may switch surgeries before a final decision is made.
Jeff Stephens, of Hartfields’ Patient Participation Group, said: “This is a consultation process at this point in time, it’s not closure.
“What we are saying to patients is not to panic. We need them to fill in the consultation form and take them to the surgery before September 29.
“Hopefully, we will be successful at keeping the practice open.”
Managers for the Hartfields surgery at IntraHealth urged patients who attended a meeting of the participation group, to spread the word about surgery and not to leave.
Their comments were echoed by the Fens Residents’ Association which is leading the fight to keep both Fens and Wynyard Road practices open.
Chairman Robert Smith said: “There is no advantage to baling out in haste. Indeed, sitting tight and supporting the campaign is the only way to increase the chances of saving a practice they are happy with in their own locality.”
Members of the Hartfields practice, located within Hartfields Retirement Village, have stressed a number of points they hope will persuade NHS England to think again.
They say the NHS is ignoring the needs of Hartfields residents, many of whom are elderly and infirm.
Mr Stephens said they would have to pay for taxis or get an ambulance to get to other practices, adding to the cost for the NHS.
But Hartfields resident Fran Charnock said: “A lot of people rely on that doctors. They won’t go to another practice.”
Fellow resident Christine Ward claimed other practices in the town are over-subscribed and they will have difficulty getting appointments if they are forced to transfer.
“How on earth will we get in to see a doctor?” she said.
Patient Aileen Wolfe asked: “Will the quality of care be taken into account? This practice has won awards.”
The consultation is being carried out by the Durham, Darlington and Tees Area Team of NHS England.
They are due to make a decision on the future of the practices in October 2014.