Sale of Beechcroft Surgery must not leave New Costessey patients in the lurch, meeting told
Reassurances have been sought that the possible sale of a Norwich doctors' surgery will not lead to patients being treated in mobile units, as happened at another practice in Norfolk.
The future of Beechcroft Surgery is likely to involve the sale of the purpose-built building, if the running of the New Costessey surgery transfers to another practice.
However, at a meeting of Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, members raised concerns that the situation in Costessey was not dissimilar to one that occurred in the west of Norfolk and which saw outgoing partners unable to agree a price for an existing doctors' premises with the an incoming primary care group.
The Terrington St John practice had to move doctors, nurses and receptionists into the village Scout hut before moving into portable buildings for almost a year.
The Taverham Partnership, which runs Beechcroft Surgery, launched a 90-day consultation on the possible closure of the Beechcroft premises in January this year, saying it did not have enough GPs to be able to continue looking after patients safely.
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NHS Norfolk and Waveney, the primary care trust which is responsible for ensuring healthcare is available across the area, is recruiting for a temporary provider of GP services, which could start from October and which would allow time for a tender to be put out for a permanent provider.
At the meeting yesterday, Dr Alastair Lipp, medical director for NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: 'Clearly we can only provide services from the Beechcroft premises if those premises, which we don't own, are made available to the future provider at an appropriately reasonable cost.'
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Tony Wright, Norfolk County Councillor for Marshland North, said: 'Last year there was a similar situation at Terrington St John, where there were questions over the ownership of the surgery and we ended up with a temporary surgery.
'There were problems with computers and phones, and it took the best part of a year to get back in and sort it out.
'I wonder if we are in danger of going back down the same road. At the time it was said this wouldn't happen again and it was a one-off.'
Dr Samita Mukhopadhyay, one of two doctors from the Taverham Partnership who attended, said: 'We the partners own the building and we have loans on the building so selling for less than its value isn't realistic.'
She added: 'There are property investors who are willing to buy and then offer a long-term 25-year lease to the new providers.'
Committee chairman Michael Cartiss pointed out that the situation was not quite the same as in Terrington, as the Taverham Partnership had already proved very helpful and seemed keen to find a solution.
But he added: 'Given that the PCT didn't seem to be getting to grips with the situation in Terrington as much as we would have liked, what we don't want is another Terrington in Costessey.'
Norfolk County Councillor Tim East, who is not a member of the committee but was invited to speak at the meeting as representative for Costessey, said he was reassured that the surgery would stay open for its 4,000 patients and added: 'But how we get there I don't know. There's an interim period where everything is up in the air.'
The partnership says one GP is due to retire at the end of May, from which time it does not believe it will be able to continue to provide a safe service.
The PCT and Taverham Partnership were asked to report back to the committee at its meeting on May 24,
with a further update on the future of Beechcroft.
Have you got a health story? Call reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org