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At-risk practices granted reprieve following patient campaigning

Three APMS practices in Hartlepool have been granted a reprieve after a vigorous patient campaign to prevent two out of the three from closing.

NHS England has granted local commissioners more time to decide the future of the Fens Medical Practice and Wynyard Road Medical Centre, which will continue to operate as separate entities until at least March 2016.

Pulse reported in August that residents had feared the two surgeries would be merged and the Fens premises abandoned, despite the fact that the practice had opened only five years previously as part of a national initiative aimed at improving access and choice of GP services for local communities.

Meanwhile, the Hartfields Medical Centre, based onsite at the nearby Hartfields Retirement Village, has been granted leave to remain open indefinitely, with commissioners promising a new long-term contract.

The practice, which serves the majority of the retirement village’s residents, had been told by NHS England that with 2,000 patients, it had not reached the level of patients needed to fulfil its APMS contract.

The Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, which runs the village, added their voices to a residents’ campaign to halt the closures, citing a loss of independence for the centre’s elderly patients and a projected spike in home visits requests as reasons for keeping the practice open.

In response to vigorous public protest, NHS England’s local area team opened a public consultation, which closed at the end of September. Following the review, all three practices’ APMS contracts were extended until March 2016.

A spokesperson for NHS England in Durham, Darlington and Tees said: ‘NHS England in Durham, Darlington and Tees is pleased the futures of the three Hartlepool GP surgeries have been secured until March 2016.

‘This allows, specifically for the Fens and Wynyard Road surgeries, time for more extensive engagement work to be undertaken before making any long-term decision on their future, and the future of primary care needs of the patients registered at these surgeries.

Robert Smith, of the Fens Residents’ Association, and Elizabeth Carroll, patient and community liaison officer at Intrahealth, which runs Hartfields and Wynyard Road practices, said in a joint statement: ‘The decision to extend the GP surgery contracts is good news for Hartlepool. It has been heartwarming to witness the level of support galvanised by the Save our Surgeries campaign. Rarely has a local issue generated such cohesiveness. We left no stone unturned in our efforts to get individual patients to respond effectively, which they did in their hundreds.’

It comes as Pulse is running the Stop Practice Closures campaign, aimed at securing funding for practices at risk of closure.

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