Councillors have called on health chiefs to work to keep open all three GP Hartlepool medical centres that are under review.
An eight-week consultation by Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on three options for the future of the Fens, Hartfields and Wynyard Road medical centres practices ends today.
The CCG says the Alternative Provider Medical Practice contracts which the three practices operate under are due to expire at the end of next March and cannot be extended further in line with national NHS policy.
Patients groups, councillors and a union leader have expressed concerns that the CCG is not looking at any options which allows all three practices, which serve more than 7,000 patients, to remain open.
The CCG, which is responsible for buying GP services, said the option of one provider running all three sites was earlier ruled out as it would not be sustainable.
It also stressed that GPs were not being cut but the changes are about where people attend.
Members of the council’s Audit and Governance Committee yesterday accused the CCG of putting cost before patients.
The consultation process also came under attack for a lack of transparency with claims some patients they had not been contacted due to an out of date patient data base.
Hartfields Retirement Village, the Hartfields Patient Participation Group and Bishop Cuthbert Residents’ Association also said they had not been approached directly by the CCG.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, said: “We have suggested the CCG goes away and reconsiders its procurement exercise and tender documents to include all three practices which is clearly the wish of the people of the town and elected members.”
Its second preference is for one provider to run two sites.
The three options being consulted on is for one provider to run Wynyard Road and Hartfields practices; for one provider to run Wynyard Road and Fens; or for one provider to provide services from Wynyard Road only.
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher said: “It is really important these services remain and stay in place.
“My concern is if one or two of these practices go it is going to have a domino effect.
“People moved to Hartfields knowing there was services which were accessible to them and that potentially will be taken away from them.”
Coun Paul Beck, for Hart ward which includes Hartfields, said: “I’m extremely saddened that financial concerns are being put before patient care.
“To close this practice would have a devastating effect on patients registered.”
He said disabled residents would have great difficulty getting to another practice further away.
Councillor Jim Lindridge (Fens and Rossmere) added: “I feel this is a cost cutting exercise and I do feel there is a lack of transparency within the process.
“I think the three options proposed undoubtedly will have a negative impact on the Fens and Hartfields practices.”
And Coun John Tennant said: “I do feel that the options being put forward do feel engineered.”
Karen Hawkins, of the CCG, said a number of Hartlepool GP practices are relying on locum cover while patients say they want to be see the same doctor or nurse.
She said: “We needed to ensure any option was sustainable both to the CCG and the provider.
“To be clear, this consultation is not about cutting GP services, this is about sustaining a workforce and its about location of service delivery. It’s about making sure those are sustainable so we don’t end up in a situation that we have ended up in for the last six months with services and contractors handing in their notice.”