Fears over future of village doctors' surgeries

PUBLISHED: 17:43 02 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:18 06 May 2010

PEOPLE living in rural parts of the district are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of village doctors surgeries. Under new Government plans, two large health centres are to be developed in Hemel Hempstead and Welwyn Garden City and the He

PEOPLE living in rural parts of the district are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of village doctors' surgeries.

Under new Government plans, two large health centres are to be developed in Hemel Hempstead and Welwyn Garden City and the Herts Primary Care Trusts has just completed a two-month consultation period.

The centres will be among some 250 across the country which will have up to 25 doctors providing GP services, available to both registered and non-registered patients, from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.

The plan follows a report on the NHS by the Minister for Health, Lord Ara Darzi, which identified a need to extend access to GP services.

But the proposals have caused consternation in villages in particular and local councillors have been fielding questions about the future of local surgeries.

Redbourn district councillor, Tony Swendell, has received a number of calls from residents concerned that the village could lose its popular new surgery.

He said: "Those among us of advancing years need local surgeries, and even if you do have access to private transport, the local transport congestion means progress on our roads is slow or gridlocked. Parking facilities also leave much to be desired, and even at hospitals are expensive."

He added: "The one thing that works is the Primary Care Trusts and local surgeries. I do wish that the Government would keep their hands off everything else until they establish a good reliable acute service which is years away."

Cllr Chris Oxley, who represents Wheathampstead, said that on first appraisal the idea of polyclinics which pulled together a wide range of services seemed like a good idea.

But he added: "However they will take away the personal relationship that many patients have with their GPs and require more and more village residents to travel to centres that are likely to be several miles away. Not a problem for a young person with a car but a real challenge to mothers with children in tow or elderly, less-mobile residents."

He saw it as yet another attack on village communities and urged local residents to sign a petition at their village surgery to show their support for their local doctors.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has comes out against the plans, fearing that the new centres could in fact alienate people in rural areas and calling for extra funding in local surgeries instead..

A spokesperson for the Herts PCTs denied that health centres would replace any GP surgeries but instead would complement them.

Dr Mike Edwards and Dr Tony Kostick, joint chairs of the PCTs' Professional Executive Committee said in a statement: "These new health centres will provide patients with more flexible access to services. Results of recent patient surveys suggest that patients want to be able to see a GP or health professional later into the evening and over the weekend.

"We plan to site the health centres alongside the new local general hospitals to ensure that as far as possible they are integrated with other community-based services including social care and diagnostic services. This is in line with delivering quality health care for Herts.

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