Hartlepool medical centre to close after Jeremy Hunt rules out intervention

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Pic: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Pic: Ben Birchall/PA Wire.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has refused to order a review of health shake-up for Hartlepool which is set to see a GP practice close.

Mr Hunt says there is no need for him to review plans for three Hartlepool medical practices, which means one will be axed.

Fens Medical Centre.

Fens Medical Centre.

Hartlepool Borough Council referred the decision of the local clinical commissioning group which affects Fens, Hartfields and Wynyard Road practices.

Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to find one provider to run the Hartfields and Wynyard Road sites, but to close the Fens practice.

It said the type of contracts used to run the three sites were not sustainable in the long term.

The council tried to get Mr Hunt to intervene on grounds the CCG’s consultation exercise was flawed claiming some people were missed out.

Patients themselves have made it crystal clear that their local surgeries are vital to their well being

Robert Smith, Fens Residents Association

It also said the closure would have a negative impact on GP access in Hartlepool and will see residents of the estate, including the elderly, have to travel further to see a doctor.

But in a letter Mr Hunt said: “I have received advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which I have accepted.

“1. A full review is not required. 2. The procurement exercise after the closure of Fens surgery should be concluded as quickly as possible to ensure minimal disruption to patient care.”

He added the CCG should fully involve people who use its services in developing options for the future.

Hartfields Patient Participation Group members, from left: Heather Collins, Hartfields Medical Centre practice manager; Liz Carroll, group chair and Jeff Stephens, group member.

Hartfields Patient Participation Group members, from left: Heather Collins, Hartfields Medical Centre practice manager; Liz Carroll, group chair and Jeff Stephens, group member.

The CCG said it was pleased at Mr Hunt’s decision adding: “We will now move quickly to finalise the procurement process to secure a provider to offer GP services at Wynyard Road and Hartfields.

“Patients of the Fens Medical Practice will have the opportunity for their care to automatically transfer to the new provider of services at Wynyard Road Primary Care Centre and Hartfields; alternatively, they can choose to register with an alternative practice if they wish to do so.”

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, said: “It’s very disappointing the Secretary of State won’t take this further.

“His final point that the CCG should fully involve all those who use its services in option development is quite vital.

Fens and Rossmere Councillor Alan Clark.

Fens and Rossmere Councillor Alan Clark.

“I will write to the CCG and ask them how those who use services currently will be involved because I think that is important.”

Anger over the Health Secretary’s decision:

Campaigners who battled to save Fens hit out at the decision.

Fens and Rossmere Councillor Alan Clark said: “Myself, Hartfields PPG and Fens Residents Association have consistently as a group fought against the closure of Fens Medical Practice since 2014.

“We have exhausted every possible avenue in trying to keep the surgery open, from writing to the Head of Commissioning of the NHS, to visits across the region to meet with local NHS leaders, and finally the referral to the secretary of state.

“I am appalled they have not listened to the wishes of the patients of the surgeries and the wider population of the town, though not surprised as this decision is driven by money rather than patient care and experiences.

“The lessons of the past have not been learnt and this closure comes at a time when primary care in Hartlepool is already at breaking point.”

Liz Carroll, of the Hartfields Patient Participation Group, said: “We are disappointed and dissatisfied with this outcome.

“We do not agree with the proposals and noting the third bullet point feel there is ambiguity about what will happen next – in particular we do not understand how we can be involved in options development as recommended by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

“We feel there has been a lack of transparency from the CCG throughout this process and we are struggling to understand their plans for future primary care provision in Hartlepool as they have not engaged with the PPG despite several requests to do so.”

Robert Smith, chair of Fens Residents’ Association, said: “In a series of consultations patients themselves have made it crystal clear that their local surgeries are vital to their well being.

“Unfortunately common sense has not prevailed and I now foresee a totally unacceptable level of damage and disruption to patient care, with a knock on effect across the town.

“The CCG’s only real consideration has been ‘saving money’ and as far as I am concerned the whole process has been a cynical exercise in ticking boxes as they moved towards a ‘decision’ which in reality was made over two years ago.

“Ironically, when the cost of numerous consultations has been added to the salary cost of the numerous CCG and NHS employees involved, it will most certainly amount to a sum more than sufficient to have sustained a surgery well into the future.

“If the NHS want to make real savings without hacking into frontline services, then it should take a long hard look at the cost of its bureaucratic burden.”