Health chiefs have denied plans for a new surgery at Wynyard are behind a consultation to close one in Trimdon Village.
Bosses from Skerne Medical Group appeared before councillors to answer questions on its intention to start shutting down services from next year.
The group, which runs practices in Trimdon Village, Trimdon Colliery, Fishburn and Sedgefield, is considering whether it will have to close its Trimdon Village site and one other in 2019.
But the proposals prompted awkward questions from members of Durham County Council’s Adults, Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
Coun Peter Brookes, councillor for the Trimdon and Thornley ward on the council, said: “There’s rumours the affluent area of Wynyard may be getting a new surgery – it would be ironic if the most deprived area lost its service and one of the most affluent got a new service.”
But the suggestion was strongly rejected by the group, which insisted it has no intention to move to Wynyard.
According to managers, it has lost more than a third of its GPs since October 2016, leaving it struggling to keep pace with patients’ needs.
On its website, it says a ‘short to medium term’ solution could be to half its number of practices, but that it could also eventually be forced to operate from a single site.
Dr Jane Hearmon, from Skerne Medical Group, told councillors: “As GPs we want to provide safe medical care to the patients we look after.
“That is the position from which we’re looking at how to provide that service, given the diminished pool of medical staff we have to do that.
“Our engagement is not just about Trimdon Village, it’s about all our practice area, it’s about ensuring we can provide a service for everyone in the best way we can with the team we have available.
“Regarding Wynyard, this question has come to us on many occasions and we’ve always said no.
“There’s no intention from SMG to close a surgery and open one in Wynyard.”
Councillors agreed to form a cross party working group to consider the group’s problems and plans in greater detail.
James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service