An ICB has found a last-minute solution to keep a GP practice open in the health secretary’s home constituency.
Priors Field Surgery, which was set to close this month, will now continue to serve its 6,000 patients as the ICB has found an ‘interim’ provider.
The Cambridgeshire practice, located in health secretary Steve Barclay’s constituency, announced last month that it would close on 31 March following the retirement of the GP partners who held the contract.
Some local councillors launched a petition which gained over 2,000 signatures calling on Mr Barclay, their MP, to keep GP services in Sutton village due to concerns about accessibility to other practices in this rural area.
Following a visit by the health secretary to discuss the issue on 3 March, the ICB announced on Friday that the company Malling Health has taken on a temporary contract to provide services to the patients of Priors Field.
The contract will start from 1 April, however the ICB said that its ‘work to secure a lease on the Priors Field Surgery is not yet concluded’ and it is working with NHS Property Services to reach a final arrangement ‘as swiftly as possible’.
The practice, which serves around 6,000 patients, currently comes under Fenland Group Practice, who announced on 23 February that ‘all options have been explored’ to continue services but ‘a sustainable option within Sutton is not viable at this time’.
The group’s website listed eight other practices which patients would have been automatically transferred to following the closure of Priors Field, the closest of which is Haddenham Surgery seven miles away, while the furthest is Ramsey Surgery 15 miles away.
The health secretary visited Priors Field on 3 March with neighbouring MP Lucy Frazer, leader of East Cambs District Council Anna Bailey, chief executive of NHS Cambs and Peterborough ICB Jan Thomas, and the ICB’s chief clinical improvement officer Dr Gary Howsam.
Mr Barclay urged the ICB to draw up plans at pace for an alternative solution to GP services in the area, and a number of public meetings were held by the ICB in the week following his meeting.
On Friday 10 March the ICB said: ‘We will be sending a letter to all patients of Priors Field Surgery by post to confirm the new provider arrangements as soon as we have finalised lease arrangements in place.
‘We also wanted to take the opportunity to once again apologise to the local community for any upset and concern the proposed closure of Priors Field Surgery has caused and thank everyone who has contacted us or attended a public meeting for sharing your views with us.
‘Whilst an interim solution has been secured, we want to keep working with the local community to ensure Sutton and the surrounding areas continue to have primary care services that meet their needs both now and in the future.’
The council said it has supported Sutton residents in their push to keep the surgery open, and leader of the council Anna Bailey said this ‘absolutely fantastic news’.
She said: ‘I want to personally say a huge thank you to Jan Thomas and Dr Gary Howsam for their extraordinary work in managing to find a new provider for primary care services for patients. We still have the hurdle of securing premises but I am really hopeful we will be able to find a workable solution.’