New twist in battle to save Hartlepool medical centre from permanent closure
The fate of a Hartlepool medical practice threatened with permanent closure is now unlikely to be known until next year.
Critics of the potential move – which has attracted hundreds of opponents – feared that a final decision over Hartfields Medical Centre, at Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, could be rubberstamped as early as next month.
But, following criticism of an initial round of public consultation, the McKenzie Group Practice, which runs the centre, has announced that another 12 weeks of consultation will begin in October.
Any final decision would still need to be ratified by the NHS Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and there are now calls for Health Secretary Sajid Javid to intervene.
The new twist was confirmed at a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s audit and governance committee.
The medical centre, which is on the same site as Hartfields retirement village, has been temporarily closed since mid-March last year due to the pandemic.
The practice plans to absorb Hartfields’ 2,180 patients at its four other medical centres across town.
Its representatives had previously carried out a six-week period of patient and stakeholder engagement up until August 29.
Yet Dr Carl Parker, from The McKenzie Practice, said they are now planning to soon begin a further 12-week engagement scheme with patients, starting next month, which they will be working with health group Healthwatch on.
He said: “We’re still looking at how we go forward, no decisions have been made, and we haven’t done any proposals at this time to the CCG as to where we go, we are still very much in a period of engagement.”
Council reports referenced the practice potentially considering submitting a closure application to a Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group meeting in October, however this will now be delayed until after the new engagement period.
Dr Parker said they will be applying for Hartfields to remain temporarily closed during this time, due to Covid-19 restrictions, and to ensure they comply with social distancing requirements.
However CCG bosses at the meeting added if all restrictions were removed then they would be asking the practice to reopen the Hartfields centre.
Councillors and patients attending the meeting again voiced their concerns over the potential closure and the impact it would have on residents.
Charlotte Hope, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which owns the building, said the GP services are “invaluable” to the area.
She said: “The doctors’ surgery and the other facilities that they offer is one of the main reasons residents come and live at Hartfields, so it’s extremely important to the residents.
“I am worried about a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of our residents.”
Labour councillor Tom Feeney, who sits on the committee, believes it should attempt to refer the matter to Mr Sajid Javid.
Cllr Feeney said: “The council has extremely limited powers when it comes to health services, but the one thing we can do is demand that the Secretary of State looks at the proposal.
"He can block this closure, so I believe it is our absolute duty to refer this matter to him in the hope that he will do so.”
An online petition against the potential closure has attracted more than 400 names and can be signed at change.org by searching for Save Hartfields Medical Practice.