USE it - or risk losing it.
Campaigners are encouraging new patients to sign up to three Hartlepool surgeries to protect their futures.
NHS England proposed in the summer to axe Hartfields Medical Practice and merge the Fens and Wynyard Road medical centres, amid claims they had not secured enough patients in five years.
But all three were granted an extension until March 2016 after hundreds of people including patients, councillors and surgery staff objected.
NHS England now says it wants to secure a new, long-term contract for Hartfields, located within Hartfields retirement village, while more work will be done before the future of the Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries are decided.
Fens and Rossmere councillor Alan Clark penned an open letter to Dame Barbara Hakin, Director of Commissioning at NHS England, saying the proposals had not taken hundreds of potential new homes in the area into account.
Coun Clark said: “I would like to say well done to everyone who got behind the campaign and it is shows that if we do all work together, we are listened to and we can achieve great things.
“As for the Fens medical practice, I welcome the decision to extend the contract until 2016.
“We now have to work to make sure that it is sustainable and that means the surgery needs more patients.
“Moving forward, I will continue to work with everybody involved in the campaign to do our utmost to ensure our ward maintains this crucial medical facility.
“Finally, I would like to thank you and everybody at the Mail for the coverage and backing you have gave us over the last few months.”
Councillor David Riddle, who registered his baby son Ethan at Hartfields as a show of support, said: “Whilst it’s excellent that Hartfields is safe for the foreseeable future, it’s important that we all continue to stand together in order to fight for the future of all the surgeries under threat of closure across Hartlepool.
“When councillors and stakeholders work together and just do what’s right, proper and in the best interests of the people of our town, that’s when positive outcomes can be achieved.”
Councillor Paul Beck, of Hart ward, has delivered hundreds of newsletters updating people on the Hartfields practice.
He said: “We now have to work with the practice to make sure it’s sustainable for the future, this includes newsletters on a regular basis letting residents know of any new developments within the service.
“As elected members we need to work together, regardless of political persuasion.
“Both myself And Councillor Jean Robinson are thrilled with the outcome.”
Liz Carroll, Patient and Community Liaison Officer for IntraHealth, which runs the Hartfields and Wynyard Road practices, said the united front by campaigners sent a strong and clear message to NHS commissioners.
She added: “They have worked tirelessly and are delighted that their views have been listened to and acted upon.
“We would also like to thank all our local councillors, our MP and the Hartlepool Mail, who have wholeheartedly given their support to our campaign. It has been a pleasure working with them all.
“Now that the future of Hartfields is secure, we are welcoming new patients.”
Robert Smith, chairman of Fens Residents Association added: “Patients of Wynyard Road and Fens Medical Practices can rest assured that we will be working hard and continue campaigning to secure their services indefinitely.”