Councillors have called for NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG to abandon plans to close a GP service. The contract to provide family doctors at Ponteland Road Health Centre cannot be extended beyond March 2018, the CCG said.
A public consultation on the future of the centre, which has a list of more than 3,000 patients, offers two options: closing GP services or finding a provider to take on a new contract. An interim report says if the surgery closes, patients would be ‘offered advice’ about registering at other practices.
City Councillor Stephen Lambert said: ‘Removing GPs in the well-used Ponteland Health Centre makes no sense. A health centre without GPs is like a fire station without firefighters.’
Losing GPs would worsen health inequalities, he added. ‘The CCG must listen to local patients and think again.’ Life expectancy in the area is more than 12 years lower for men and nearly a decade lower for women than in the least deprived areas of Newcastle.
Ponteland’s patients are more likely to rely on buses, making it harder to access other surgeries, he said. Closing GPs services ‘will simply end real choice for the disabled and long-term sick’.
The surgery is currently run on an APMS contract by the Freeman Clinics, a partnership between Newcastle Hospitals FT and GPs. It has previously been extended and cannot be lengthened any further, the CCG said.
Healthwatch Newcastle has been working with the CCG to engage patients, holding a public meeting in August. Chief executive Steph Edusei said the time allowed for the consultation was ‘adequate’ but ‘we do have concerns that the bulk of this has been done over the summer holiday period and that this may have prevented people from contributing.’ However, she recognised that the procurement timetable was driving the timescales.
Nearly 9% of patients responded to a survey on the future of the practice. Most called for more permanent staff and fewer locums, and for more sustainable GP services.
In the interim report, the CCG promised it had listened to patient views and had taken them into account when developing plans for the future.
A walk-in centre based at the same location will remain and is not part of the consultation, which ends 17 September.
‘Removing doctors’ surgeries in the well-used Ponteland Road Health Centre makes no sense,’ he added. ‘A health centre without GPs is like a fire station without firefighters.’