IAIN WRIGHT: I remain opposed to closure of surgeries

Fens Medical Centre.
Fens Medical Centre.

There is the possibility for a couple of GP surgeries in the town to close. The local Clinical Commissioning Group, the NHS body which commissions health services, has launched a consultation about the future of the Fens Medical Centre, Hartfields Medical Practice and Wynyard Road Primary Care Centre.

The three options under consideration are for a single provider to operate surgeries at Fens and Wynyard Road, a provider to operate Hartfields and Wynyard Road or Wynyard Road only.

We have been here before. Exactly two years ago there was a similar consultation on the future of these three GP surgeries. I was opposed to the closure of any of those three GP surgeries then and I remain opposed to these proposals now.

I should perhaps declare an interest: I am a registered patient at the Hartfields surgery.

On a broader point, this is not the way to run sustainable health services. The local CCG has stated that short term contracts do not provide value for money or effective patient care.

I completely agree with that, but that does beg the question, why on earth is the Government insisting on running the NHS in a way that throws up uncertainty and fear and concern for thousands of patients every couple of years and which prevents real investment in primary care (and therefore proper improved patient health)?

If you were a provider, there’s very little incentive for you to tender for the contract because you wouldn’t want the hassle and uncertainty every couple of years.

Nobody wants to see contracts which are handed out for an indefinite period of time, and nobody wants a poorly performing contract to continue, but a longer period of a contract would provide both certainty and reassurance for the patient, which in turn would allow providers to attract more staff in the long-term, provide a greater range of services the patients want in the GP surgery and give better value for money for the taxpayer.

I also think the options are unrealistic and out of step with patients’ needs. Under these proposals, it looks like either Fens or Hartfields, or both, would close.

Given that these two practices are on opposite ends of the town it is ludicrous to suggest that a patient at one of the surgeries could easily move to the other.

What if they don’t have a car? For the Hartfields practice, this is an integral part of the wider retirement village.

This was meant to show the model of a better integrated social and health care system. That would be thrown away.

I am contributing to the consultation as the town’s MP and as an affected patient. I hope you will do the same.

You can do so by contacting the consultation exercise at www.hartlepoolandstocktonccg.nhs.uk/news/projects/fens-hartfields-wynyard-road-project-say/, email NECSU.comms@nhs.net or phone (0191) 374 2795.

The closing date for the consultation is Friday, September 23.