Councillors have called on health bosses to help maintain “safe services” in Trimdon Village over fears its GP surgery could close.
Skerne Medical Group (SMG), which has four surgeries in Sedgefield, Fishburn, Trimdon Colliery and Trimdon Village, is reviewing its operations with a view of keeping two sites.
The group are set to decide whether its Trimdon Village surgery, which had to temporarily close last year because of a GP shortage, and one other, can remain open from 2019.
Changes have been prompted by staff pressures and are subject to the result of a six-week public engagement which has seen five public meetings so far.
This week, Durham, Dales, Easington and Sedgefield’s Clinical Commissioning Group (DDES) noted the developments at their Primary Care Commissioning Committee.
During public questions at Wheatley Hill’s Greenhills Centre, concerns were raised by local councillors about the potential of Trimdon Village being left without primary services from January 1, 2019.
Coun Peter Brookes, who represents the Trimdon and Thornley ward on Durham County Council, noted the size of the community affected – the second largest in the Skerne Medical Group area.
He claimed this represented around 3,000 patients, which is worth around £450,000 to the health firm and criticised the communication with residents during engagement.
While admitting Skerne Medical Group was under pressure and attempting to provide “safe services” , he called on the CCG to explore other options, including working with developers to bring new health facilities into the area.
He added: “There will be nothing safe about single parents, elderly people, about disabled people during a dark January night having to travel to Fishburn or Trimdon Colliery.
“There will be nothing safe about that given the deprivation we have.”
Paul Trippett, of Trimdon Parish Council, also said: “A village that has more than 3,000 people, every single person in that village will have to travel for their primary health care.
“If that’s what you think is the way forward, primary services are going down the wrong path.”
Chairman of the committee, Feisal Jassat, responding, said the CCG had to adopt an “objective balanced approach” to the proposals which would be considered in full next month.
“You have made a number of suggestions in terms of options and that’s information we will absorb,” he added.
Since being announced, the proposals have attracted strong opposition from both Trimdon Parish Council and Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson in a campaign to protect services.
Partner at Skerne Medical Group, Dr Christine Hearmon, has encouraged residents to take part in feedback sessions ahead of the proposals being presented to NHS England and the CCG.
“We have been very transparent through this process, about both the challenges that we are facing and the options that we have to consider,” she said.
“It is our view that to sustain the high level of safe clinical services for patients that we are committed to providing, we need to reduce the number of sites from which we work.
“Following the public engagement process, we will review all comments and suggestions made by patients and finalise our proposals to present to NHS England and the CCG.
“These will be based on what we believe is the best plan to not only address the short-term problems, but which will also allow Skerne Medical Group to offer a high quality GP service for the long term, to all of the patients in our practice.”
A decision on Skerne Medical Group’s business case will be made at the CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee on Tuesday, December 18, at 1.30pm.
The venue is yet to be confirmed and papers for the meeting will be available on the CCG’s website: www.durhamdaleseasingtonsedgefieldccg.nhs.uk
The final Skerne Medical Group consultation event takes place on Thursday, November 29, at Sedgefield Parish Hall at 1.30pm.
Alternatively, visit: www.doctorsnhs.co.uk for more information on the plans.
Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service