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Patient campaigners lose fight to save local GP practice

Nearly 3,000 patients will be forced to register with a new GP as their practice will close next year despite a long campaign to save it.

The future of the Fens Medical Centre, which will shut its doors in March 2017, had been subject to an eight-week public consultation into which of three local APMS-contracted practices would have to close because of CCG funding constraints.

The CCG said in a statement that it will ‘work with patients to ensure they are fully aware of next steps and who to contact for further advice’.

Karen Hawkins, the CCG’s associate director of commissioning and delivery, said it had to make sure services are sustainable for patients.

She said: ‘We take our duty really seriously and sometimes we have to consult and engage on options that aren’t necessarily welcome.

‘We haven’t gone for what is the most financially viable option, we have taken patients views into account before a decision has been taken.’

The consultation had three options: one provider at Fens and Wynyard Road, one provider at Hartfields and Wynyard Road and one provider at Wynyard Road only.

The first two options were equally supported by 36.8% of respondents, while option one had slightly more opposition than option two.

In making its decision, the CCG said it considered ‘health inequalities in the area and proposed new housing developments that may mean an increase in patients who need to register with a GP practice’.

The Fens Residents Association, which has been disputing proposals to reduce services since 2014, said the outcome is ‘very distressing’ for patients in Hartlepool as the area ‘has one of the worst ratios of GPs to patients in the country’.

Robert Smith, chairman of the association, said: ‘Both Fens Medical Practice and Hartfields Medical Practice were introduced a few years ago because there was a definite need for them.

‘The approach the NHS was taking not so long ago was to make primary care local, so this is very much an about turn in their policy.’