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Council purchases GP premises to allow general practice to continue

A surgery in Essex will continue to provide general practice services after the building was purchased by the local authority.

NHS England said in September 2016 it would disperse the 3,000 patients of the East Tilbury Medical Centre to neighbouring practices after the owner of the building was declared bankrupt.

However, Thurrock Council announced this week that it will purchase the building following a series of public meetings.

The medical centre continues to be operated by College Health, and it is expected that NHS England will start a tendering process for a permanent arrangement soon.

Councillor James Halden, health lead for Thurrock Council, said: ‘Not only would 3,000 patients have to be moved on to other lists, which would have put a severe burden on those other surgeries, but the surgery is in the middle of an extremely rural and rather disparate area, and demographically one of the older areas in the borough. It would have been difficult for some of those people to have to commute to services in some of the more urban parts of the borough.

‘From NHS England’s perspective, they can’t possibly argue that having a council-owned surgery is as bad as having a dispersal order and inflating other GP’s lists by thousands of patients.’

Dr Richard Vautrey, chair of the BMA’s GP Committee, said: ‘I think council intervention can help; it can bring much-needed capital and provide some stability for a practice that isn’t then just focused on the delivery of healthcare systems but other services that the local need and value.

‘I think it’s an opportunity for developing shared arrangements and utilising some of the capital that councils have for investing in NHS services. I think it brings NHS and social care and wider local authority roles close together which can be a positive thing.

‘It provides primarily some stability for the practice within that building when in many cases it is premises issues that are driving practices to hand back their contracts.’

Rachel Webb, locality director for NHS England Midlands and East (East), said: ’College Health Ltd is the current caretaker provider of services at East Tilbury Medical Centre. This arrangement ensures that patients of the East Tilbury Medical Centre can continue to access primary care medical services in the usual way.

’NHS England is working with NHS Thurrock Clinical Commissioning Group to explore longer-term options for the services delivered from the medical centre.’