Closure-hit Hartlepool medical practice set to reopen in 2022

Health bosses have ruled a Hartlepool medical practice should reopen next month amid continuing talks over its permanent closure.

By Nic Marko
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 4:15 pm

Hartfields Medical Centre, which is on the same site as Hartfields retirement village, in Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, has been temporarily shut since mid-March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year The McKenzie Group Practice revealed its intention to submit a formal application to health chiefs to permanently close the centre.

Hartfields Medical Centre, in Hartlepool, could be closed with more than 2,2000 patients transferred to other practices across town.

A new round of public consultation over the issue is due to begin in January.

In the meantime, a request had been made to Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) from The McKenzie Group to keep the site shut on Covid-19 safety grounds.

But the CCG has now ruled at its latest meeting that a further extension to the temporary closure is not supported.

Emma Joyeux, commissioning lead for primary care at the CCG, said following checks from an infection control team that the practice can reopen.

She said: “Their advice therefore is that they feel there is sufficient infection prevention and control procedures in place that do not prevent the practice from being open.

“Bearing in mind the booster programme and the priority that has at the moment, the recommendation is that this would be for the 10th of January for it to reopen to allow the practice to actually mobilise the staff back.”

The meeting also heard how a second engagement exercise on any potential permanent closure will run for 10 weeks from January 14 to March 25.

This will be followed by an evaluation of findings running until May, which will be presented to Hartlepool Borough Council audit and governance committee.

Further papers and recommendations are then expected in May or June, with any further consultation taking place as soon as possible.

Mrs Joyeux said the engagement will take a “more collaborative approach” and look “not just whether it should be fully open or fully closed, but everything in between”.

Officers added any other requests for temporary closures at Hartfields, such as for staffing shortages due to Covid-19 or other issues, would have to again be submitted to the CCG.

The McKenzie Group, which runs other surgeries across Hartlepool, has been approached for comment.

It has previously said it intends to bring services together at its other sites at Wynyard Road Medical Centre, McKenzie House, Throston Medical Centre and Victoria Medical Centre.

The reason for the proposals, as included in an earlier council report, would be to “enhance clinical quality and practice resilience, to run more efficiently and to continue to deliver high quality of care to patients”.

Opponents of the move, however, included new Hartlepool MP Jill Mortimer, who said “I will not be supporting in any way the closure of Hartfields”, while the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which owns the building, said the GP services were “invaluable” to the area.

More than 2,000 patients are registered with the centre.

The petition can be signed at change.org by searching for Save Hartfields Medical Practice.