Belton surgery closure: campaigners voice anger at NHS role

NHS bosses have defended their 'unpalatable decision' to close a village doctors surgery, arguing the alternative was �100,000s of cuts elsewhere.

Belton surgery closed its doors for the last time this week, and campaigners from Belton Action Group have criticised those who sealed its fate.

They claim the NHS neglected to bring the surgery up to standard while splashing cash on urban facilities, and that villagers who cannot drive will be isolated from full health services - facing a difficult journey to Gorleston.

In an open letter, they list a catalogue of complaints, including improper consultation, lack of communication and claims that the former Waveney School was not properly considered as an alternative site.

But bosses at NHS Norfolk and Waveney say they made 'considerable' efforts to find a new surgery site, and could not find an appropriate solution that fitted budgets.

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Andrew Morgan, the trust's chief executive, said: 'We devoted considerable time and money to explore all the options available to us but regretfully none would provide a surgery in Belton which would comply with modern healthcare requirements, be affordable or provide value for public money.

'We hope the community will understand that not only must NHS care be provided in an environment which meets current standards but the NHS budget is already very stretched; we have a rising population and ever increasing demands for health care.

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'If we spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in Belton we would effectively have to cut spending on care elsewhere.

'It is a difficult and unpalatable decision but one which is ultimately right in the current economic climate.'

Mr Morgan added he could only apologise for what has happened.

'We know and understand that some people will be disappointed and we are sorry for this,' he said.

Campaigners claim they first heard of the closure when it was announced in the media, but NHS bosses say the Belton Working Group - which contained members from Belton Action Group - were informed of the decision before it was announced publicly.

And the trust defended the consultation on Belton surgery, stating it has a duty to make sure its public consultations adhere to the government's code of practice.

Campaigners say alternative provision of weekly surgeries in the village hall will not offer full check-ups for heart problems and diabetes, and added: 'This could lead to some patients missing these and suffering severe consequences especially as we are in a rural community.'

But NHS bosses say they are exploring transport options for patients living in Belton with community representatives.

Patients registered with Dr Shelton and Partners will continue to be able to see their family doctor or practice nurse from the partnership's recently-upgraded Millwood surgery at Bradwell.

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