Hartlepool campaigners vow to fight on to save GP surgeries

FIGHTING ON: Chairman Jeff Stephens (front left) with fellow members of the Hartfields Medical Practice Patient Participation Group.
FIGHTING ON: Chairman Jeff Stephens (front left) with fellow members of the Hartfields Medical Practice Patient Participation Group.

HEALTH campaigners have vowed to fight on to save their GP surgeries after being granted a reprieve.

Patients objected in their hundreds to proposals to axe Hartfields Medical Practice and to merge Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries with the loss of one.

It was claimed by NHS England they had failed to secure the numbers of patients expected since they opened five years ago and would not be cost effective.

But following a review it has granted the three practices an extension until March 2016.

They aim to secure a new long-term contract for Hartfields practice, which is part of Hartfields Retirement Village.

And they say it will give commissioners more time to look at Fens and Wynyard Road.

Jeff Stephens, of Hartfields Patient Participation Group, which encouraged patients to take part in a consultation exercise, said: “It is an excellent result and gives us a time frame in which to work for the future.

“We need to battle on and get more patients in.”

He added: “We are hearing that the powers that be were quite amazed with the depth of feeling and response to the consultation which we feel probably swayed it.”

His comments were echoed by Robert Smith, of Fens Residents’ Association, and Elizabeth Carroll, patient and community liaison officer at Intrahealth, which runs Hartfields and Wynyard Road practices.

They said in a joint statement: “The decision to extend the GP surgery contracts is good news for Hartlepool.

“It has been heartwarming to witness the level of support galvanised by the Save our Surgeries campaign. Rarely has a local issue generated such cohesiveness.

“We left no stone unturned in our efforts to get individual patients to respond effectively, which they did in their hundreds.

“This extension of contracts represents an unmissable opportunity for all concerned to look extremely closely at the consequences of any reduction in Hartlepool’s primary care provision, especially against the background of ongoing threats to the existence of our hospital.

“This is most certainly not an excuse to rest upon our laurels.

“The alliance needs to stick together, make the most of the extensions and demonstrate to the NHS once and for all that all three surgeries deserve to be safeguarded on a long term basis.”

A spokesperson for NHS England in Durham, Darlington and Tees said: “NHS England in Durham, Darlington and Tees is pleased the futures of the three Hartlepool GP surgeries have been secured until March 2016, this decision follows the recent consultation exercise with stakeholders and the patients of the practices.

“This allows, specifically for the Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries, time for more extensive engagement work to be undertaken before making any long-term decision on their future, and the future of primary care needs of the patients registered at these surgeries.

“In regards to the Hartfields practice, our aim is to now try and secure a new, long term contract. As always, we will put patient care at the centre of all we do and continue to ensure patients have access to GP services.”