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Patients raise more than £30,000 in donations to keep their local GP practice

A rural practice has received more than £30,000 in donations to equip a new health centre, which is under construction with funds from a local patron, as part of a community drive to retain a village GP service.

The Hawkshead Patient Community Health Fund is within sight of its £35,000 target to kit out the medical centre being built in the village of Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park.

The registered charity was launched by the patient participation group at Hawkshead Medical Practice, which has fought a long-running battle to keep the GP practice open after its MPIG support was slashed in 2014.

The Community Health Fund said on its website that ‘without access to these vital services our community becomes less sustainable’, with services needed to ensure ‘people can continue to live and work in the Central Lake District’ and so that tourists too could continue to access services.

The GP practice, situated on the western edge of Lake Windermere, merged into the Central Lakes Medical Group with practices in nearby in Ambleside and Grasmere in 2016 in a bid to make the most of efficiencies from working at scale.

Being in the heart of the Lake District, the practices have large temporary resident populations which are not accounted for in the core funding formula and local property prices meant a new surgery was out of reach.

A local family, which runs several business ventures in the area, stepped in with the offer to construct a new building for the surgery to rent, and applied for planning permission in 2014.

The family will continue to own the building, and has accepted the going rent from the NHS, which has been valued by the district valuer.

Dr Jane Rimington, a GP partner at the practice, told Pulse that what the community had achieved was ‘incredible’, and came amid a lack of support from NHS managers.

She said: ‘NHS England has not really supported this, although they had to approve it. The only financial support they were prepared to put in was the change in the IT costs.

’But we really had to fundraise for fixtures and fittings we are going to have.’

Dr Rimington added that the patient who had initially launched the building project had sadly passed away, but his family is maintaining the project because of its importantce to the community.

She told Pulse: ‘They have been in the village forever. And they own tourist businesses, they own farms, so they want the service to stay here and to have a community that people can live in.’

Dr Rimington said the new premises were ‘a big improvement’ on a current ‘substandard’ building and will also allow services like physiotherapy to have a base in the village.

She added: ‘It’s unbelievable, just phenomenal amounts of money. Everyone’s chipping in, it’s ranged from pennies collected at school to some very big donations by individuals.

‘Really this is their fundraising effort because they are desperate to keep a surgery presence in the village.’

Any donations left over from the health fund will be used to boost local public health, including healthy eating sessions at the local school, Dr Rimington added.