A COUNCILLOR has made an impassioned plea to an NHS boss demanding controversial proposals that could result in the closure of a medical practice be overturned.
A consultation is underway over NHS proposals to merge Fens Medical Centre in Hartlepool with the nearby Wynyard Road Primary Care Centre, prompting fears the smaller Fens practice will close.
Labour councillor Alan Clark has hit out because the proposals don’t take into account up to 2,700 new houses in the pipeline for that part of town.
He said it makes a “mockery” out of claims the centre is under-used because it could be overrun with thousands of new patients.
Coun Clark has penned an open letter demanding answers from Dame Barbara Hakin, Director of Commissioning at NHS England, who is responsible for overseeing operational delivery.
NHS England is also proposing to axe Hartfields Medical Centre with over 2,000 patients having to find other GP practices, in a move which has sparked anger across Hartlepool.
The NHS says the GP contracts provided by the three practices have not attracted enough patients since they were formed and will become too costly in the long term.
But Coun Clark, who represents the Fens & Rossmere ward, has made a series of points in his open letter to the national director, stating:
l The proposals will leave “our ward with no healthcare provision whatsoever”. There are 8,770 residents in the ward. There are 2,773 patients registered at this practice of which 1,541 live in Fens & Rossmere.
l The consultation document “fails to take into account planning permission being sought for a further 2,780 residential units to the South West of my ward. There is potential there for a further 7,000 plus more patients in the vicinity of the Fens Medical practice. Why has this not been considered?”
l Coun Clark said the Fens Medical Practice is a “fine example of how a doctors surgery should be” adding residents believe it to be a “cost cutting exercise”.
Coun Clark added “I believe this is a gigantic backwards step for health care provision in Fens & Rossmere in Hartlepool.”
He told the Mail: “I have been inundated with concerns from residents and working in association with the Fens Residents’ Association I have drafted this response.
“It has got to be a joint effort and they need to realise how much opposition there is to the plans, we can’t just sit back and take it.
“There is no mention of the potential new houses that could be built soon and it makes a mockery of the plans.
“There could be as many as 7,000 new residents living in this part of town.”
Despite attempts NHS England were unable to provide a statement before the Mail went to print.
But the official consultation document does outline the reasons behind the proposals.
Earlier this year, Persimmon Homes took over Yuill Homes’s interest as lead developer for new houses on the South West extension, which could see anywhere up to 2,780 new houses built.
Subject to planning approval, the estate would also include a primary school as well as a small shopping parade.
With regards Fens Medical Practice, the NHS England consultation document, said: “As at July 2014, the registered list size is 2,773 – since the start of the contract, the practice has seen a steady growth in the number of registered patients but it has never reached its original target of 4,800 patients by the end of March 2013.”
Under the header ‘Future Housing Developments’ the report added: “There are no known future housing developments planned for the area.”
The Fens Residents’ Association, which is spearheading the campaign to keep Fens Medical Centre, is urging patients to have their say before the consultation closes on September 29.
Patients who have already responded have said nobody was told the practices could be limited to just five years, that the patient number targets were set too high and the NHS has overlooked proposals for major housing developments near all three practices under review.
They also say Hartlepool already has a poor rate of doctors to patients, and needs improving, not making worse by closing practices.
To take part in the consultation patients can pick up a copy of the form from the practice or complete it online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ReviewofGPservicesatFensMedicalPractice