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NHS chiefs forced to apologise to patients for sham consultation over surgery closure plans

By Gareth Iacobucci

A PCT has been forced to apologise to patients after it issued a letter informing them that their GP surgery was to close without consultation.

Patients at the Solent Surgery in Hythe received a letter from Hampshire PCT informing them of plans to axe the surgery because it is too small – and offering them a list alternative practices to sign-up to in the area.

But the PCT was forced to delay the decision by six months after furious local patients said they had not been properly consulted, and formed a protest group to fight the decision.

In its initial letter, the PCT told patients: ‘Hampshire PCT intends to transfer the service currently provided by Solent Surgery to other local GP surgeries'.

It said that the surgery ‘is too small for a full-time GP', and offers ‘a limited range of services compared to other practices locally'.

Registered patients were told they would either have to choose a new GP or be transferred automatically to another practice.

But, following the angry reaction to the plans, Gareth Cruddace, chief executive of Hampshire PCT, wrote a follow-up letter to patients. He said: ‘Following initial feedback I felt it was important to write again to offer my sincere apologies for any concern the letter may have caused.

‘We have therefore decided to keep the surgery open for at least six months in order to work with local patients in deciding the future of Solent Surgery.'

Patients have since formed a committee to support the Save Solent Surgery campaign - which is being backed by New Forest East MP Julian Lewis - after more than 60 people met at a local meeting to speak out against the plans.

The PCT has pledged to hold a number of public meetings in the coming months to discuss the proposals but New Forest East MP, Conservative Dr Julian Lewis, said in a letter to Mr Cruddace that there were indications that the PCT was 'still determined upon closure-albeit after a less obviously sham consultation.'

The surgery is one of hundreds of smaller GP surgeries across the country facing the threat of closure in the country, amid the rise of polyclinics.

Thousands of patients have given their backing to Pulse's Save Our Surgeries Campaign, which has demanded a halt to enforced closures, and called for full consultation on all plans to reconfigure GP services.

GP leaders back Pulse's campaign against enforced surgery closures GP leaders back Pulse's campaign against enforced surgery closures

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