MP WRITES: Save our surgeries

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NHS England is planning to cut GP surgeries in Hartlepool.

The three practices at the Fens, Wynyard Road and at Hartfields are being considered for closure.

I am opposed to this.

These considerations are not being put forward by medical professionals or through clinical advice, but to allow the Government to cut funding in the NHS. This is not about clinical need, but financial constraints.

Most of the way in which people use the NHS is through their GP.

About 90 per cent of all NHS interaction is done at a primary care level, and this is done with about nine per cent of the total NHS budget.

By any measure, GPs and their staff do a remarkable job.

It is forecast that primary care is set to become even more important, as the population ages, technology changes and more people live with complex and multiple health conditions.

Health policy throughout the country is pushing treatments out of a local hospital setting – and I think everybody is aware of this in our town – and into primary care.

NHS England’s own policy states: “Our aim is to enable general practice to play an even stronger role at the heart of more integrated out-of-hospital services that deliver better health outcomes, more personalised care, excellent patient experience and the most efficient possible use of NHS resources.”

However, it doesn’t seem to me that primary care can be prioritised in this way while at the same time the same organisation is proposing to cut the provision of primary care in the town.

Hartlepool has a low ratio of GPs for its population. The town has 63 GPs per 100,000 population.

This is lower than the national and regional average – only Stockton has a lower ratio in the North-East.

The number of patients per GP is higher than the national and regional average. It was precisely because of this historically low level of local doctors in the town that five years ago additional provision was given to help provide more primary care – that money was given for the services at the Fens, Wynyard Road and Hartfields.

That money is now being proposed to be taken away, but the root problem hasn’t been addressed.

There are a number of specific reasons why I don’t think the GP practices identified should be closed, and I have outlined these in detail in my submission to the consultation.

I know the Fens Estate very well – I was brought up there and my parents still live there.

The Fens is a great estate, ideal for bringing up families with good facilities for local shops and great schools – I declare an interest as my brothers and I as well as all my kids went to Fens School – but didn’t have a local doctors.

That has now being changed and shouldn’t be altered back.

The Wynyard Road Practice is at the heart of Owton Manor, an area with some social, economic and health issues.

Working with other agencies like Housing Hartlepool and the council in a joined up way, the practice is making inroads in providing a responsive, local service that is helping to address those health issues.

I should also declare an interest in that I am a patient at the Hartfields Practice. However, I don’t live out of town – I am a local MP who has always lived in Hartlepool and who relies on local public services – this is not an abstract game for me.

Hartfields GP Practice is vitally important for the residents of Hartfields Retirement Village, many of whom might have moved there because of the close proximity to a doctors’ surgery, and to the growing estate of Bishop Cuthbert.

The closing date for the consultation is 29 September. I hope people affected by the proposal will contribute.

l The means of doing so are as follows:

On-line: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/HartlepoolAPMSConsultation

Email: NYHCSU.centralengagementteam-@nhs.net

Post: FREEPOST RTJR-UYYB-BCUC, North Yorkshire & Humber Commissioning Support Unit, Health House, Grange Park Lane, Willerby, HULL, HU10 6DT

Phone: 0800 915 5397 (Freephone)