Doctor’s shock as provider withdraws services from 2,000-patient surgery

Westwood surgery, Lowestoft. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Westwood surgery, Lowestoft. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

A GP who owns a surgery with more than 2,000 patients has hit out at a decision by a service provider to move patients elsewhere.

Westwood surgery, Lowestoft.PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Westwood surgery, Lowestoft.PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Fergal O'Driscoll has been providing GP services in Lowestoft for 30 years, and set up Westwood Surgery, in Westwood Avenue, 20 years ago.

But earlier this week Dr O'Driscoll, staff and patients were told that East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) would be moving the service to Kirkley Mill Surgery.

Dr O'Driscoll, 59, said: 'I am shocked by the decision of ECCH to withdraw services from Westwood Surgery. Furthermore I am very upset by the reasons they have given to my patients for their withdrawal.'

Dr O'Driscoll, who currently works at a locum GP through ECCH, said they were awarded a limited period one-year caretaker contract to provide GP services from Westwood Surgery in April 2016.

This was after a previous service provider left, but Dr O'Driscoll still owned the premises.

'As yet ECCH have not paid any rent for their use of the premises,' he said.

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'Since their occupation ECCH have highlighted to me through my agent some issues they have in relation to the property such as disabled access.

'I have been aware of this and EECH and I are in negotiations on this, on rent payment and the other issues we have with the building.'

But Dr O'Driscoll said he was shocked at the sudden announcement to leave, as he thought a meeting scheduled for yesterday was meant to resolve the issues.

'I stress to my patients and the general public that the building is not and never was unsafe,' he said.

'Previous inspections of the building have never highlighted safety concerns. What we are talking about are issues that would be relatively inexpensive to rectify.

'I feel it is important to stress these points as I would not want my patients to think that I have through ignorance nor neglect, put them in any way at risk.

'I can only imagine that ECCH have made this decision to withdraw from Westwood to avoid signing a tenancy agreement which would of course give them obligations which they now seemingly want to avoid.'

ECCH Director of Quality and Primary Care Dr Noreen Cushen–Brewster said: 'Since April, East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) has run the GP services at Westwood Surgery in Westwood Avenue, Lowestoft. Working closely with Dr Fergal O'Driscoll and his team, we have become concerned that the practice building is no longer suitable to provide modern GP services to patients. We have carried out a number of audits following national guidelines and have found, for example, that the surgery no longer complies with current safety requirements for disabled patients or with the standards for infection prevention and control.

'We have been in discussion with the landlord about the remedial changes necessary at the surgery but the landlord has not been able to undertake them to date. Therefore, in discussion with Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group, we have taken the decision to vacate these premises from Thursday 1 December and move the GP service to Kirkley Mill Health Centre which is a mile and a half away on Clifton Road, Lowestoft. We have written to all patients registered with the surgery to inform them of this.

'We are working hard to minimise any disruption this decision may cause to patients. They won't need to do anything to re-register - there will be no forms to fill in or documentation required. This will be done automatically. Of course, if they wish to do so, patients may register with another practice of their choice and we have made that information available to all existing patients.

Dr Cushen-Brewster added: 'On taking over the contract for Westwood Surgery in April ECCH offered to pay the same sum of rent paid by the previous management organisation but that figure was rejected. ECCH then had an NHS valuation of the property carried out and has subsequently offered the landlord double the amount of rent he was receiving prior to ECCH taking on the surgery management. Negotiations on this matter are ongoing.'

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