Lowestoft will not get any new GP surgeries to replace two which have closed
- Credit: Nick Butcher
New GP surgeries to replace two closed in Lowestoft by a health watchdog have been ruled out if the practices are shut permanently.
HealthEast – the clinical commissioning group (CCG) for Great Yarmouth and Waveney, which is responsible for healthcare services in the area – released an online questionnaire giving the 5,000 patients affected at the Marine Parade Surgery and Oulton Medical Centre three options for the long-term resolution to the closure.
But it ruled two of those options out, saying that negotiating a service for patients with new and existing providers would take between nine months and a year – even though the chairman of Oulton Medical Centre patient participation group (PPG) said retaining services at that site would be their preferred option.
The CCG also ruled out sending a letter to all patients at the two surgeries telling them to register with another GP, saying: 'It would mean GP practices could not plan the services effectively as they would not know how many patients wanted to register.'
That means the only option left is for the CCG to work with the neighbouring Bridge Road and Victoria Road surgeries – which are currently offering temporary care to patients affected by the closures – to see whether they would have the capacity to look after them long term.
HealthEast aims to make a decision by December and implement it afterwards – but it is still unclear whether the two surgeries will remain permanently closed, should the owners overturn the decision in an appeal.
Terry Rymer, chairman of the PPG at Oulton Medical Centre, said: 'We would like to see Oulton Medical Centre sustained if it can be.
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'We're more concerned about elderly patients who are in close proximity for whom it's an ideal location.'
He said if the surgery was closed permanently, he would prefer to see the site taken over by another practice, which could expand its services.
Although Bridge Road and Victoria Road have been praised for how they have taken on the increased workload, Mr Rymer said it would put increased pressure on them.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous said he understood the reasons the CCG had taken the decision but would take any concerns expressed by patients to HealthEast.
Andy Evans, chief executive of HealthEast, said: 'We appreciate this has been a worrying time for patients and we have been working with NHS England to make sure a stable service is resumed for patients as soon as possible.'
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