Three Horsham doctors’ surgeries could close with patients and staff relocated to a new health centre in Broadbridge Heath under plans being considered by GPs.
A total of 26,000 combined patients at the Orchard Surgery in Lower Tanbridge Way, Courtyard Surgery in London Road, and Riverside Surgery in Worthing Road, could be affected by proposals, which are being driven by a combination of capacity issues and population expansion in the town.
Plans could see the three practices effectively co-locate to a new medical facility built alongside the new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre as Horsham District Council looks to redevelop the quadrant.
The idea was discussed at a Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) meeting in Horsham last Thursday (July 31), which was called to engage patients about the future of NHS services in the town and surrounding area.
However both Simon Dean, Horsham locality chair for the CCG, and Minesh Patel, clinical leader and chair of the CCG, emphasised that proposals were the start of a discussion and no decisions had been made at this stage.
Dr Patel said: “We have had a burning desire almost since day one to really to try and link up the ideas and we need to develop services around our communities and that the infrastructure has to be designed around the needs and the services.”
Dr Dean added: “This is a discussion. There’s nothing here which is fixed. The reason we are coming out [with plans] is to get your views.”
He explained: “It’s at the very early stages. Options are being considered quite widely. That’s a very interesting opportunity that’s arising. It gives us the potential to deliver general practice at scale.”
According to the CCG’s Strategic Service Development Plan discussions with the Horsham practices themselves had flagged up a number of ‘infrastucture challenges’ at the Orchard, Courtyard, and Riverside surgeries, as well as at Holbrook Surgery in Bartholomew Way and Park Surgery in Albion Way.
Park Surgery, which has 22,500 registered patients, is unable to expand as its top floor cannot be used for general practice and primary care purposes without more funding.
Meanwhile there are no opportunities to expand Holbrook Surgery, which was built for 9,500 patients but now has 14,500.
The CCG’s Five Communities Plan reads: “Courtyard Surgery, Orchard Surgery, and Riverside Surgery have all outgrown their buildings and have space and capacity issues, but with no way of expanding in their current locations.
“There is a pressing need for GP services for new residents of the housing development at Broadbridge Heath where there is the opportunity to integrate a new facility within the proposed sports centre.”
HDC announced in February new plans for the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant, which would see a new leisure facility built alongside a medical centre, new retail units, as well as restaurants, a hotel, and up to 200 apartments.
Consultation on the quadrant masterplan closed in June, with a report due before HDC’s Full Council in September.
Even if a decision is made to move the three surgeries Dr Patel suggested that any changes would happen in late 2016/2017 at the earliest, and they were looking at retaining a town centre contact point.
He said: “How might people want to access those town centre services? It’s very high level work that needs a lot more detail to it.”
Meanwhile Dr Dean suggested that the new centre could also contain Public Health England services such as vaccinations and cancer screening, advocacy and third sector volunteering services, and health and wellbeing services.
While CCGs do not directly commission GPs services, which is done by NHS England, they can enable discussion around their future.
One Orchard Surgery patient who attended last Thursday’s meeting said: “There’s got to be a change. The NHS is increasingly complex and we need to be moving with the times.”
Another attendee, who is registered at the Riverside Surgery, added: “They [the GPs] have worked very hard and they are listening. You can see they have followed up on things they have been told about.”
Both felt that the key to any changes was to keep the existing practices autonomous if they were co-located to a new premises in Broadbridge Heath so that patients could keep their GP.
The meeting was the last of three held to launch the CCG’s ‘Five Communities Plan’, following similar events in Burgess Hill and Crawley earlier in the month.
The event, held at Horsham’s Drill Hall in Denne Road, included talks by experts from the CCG, a question and answer session, and roundtable discussions on what the plan will mean for patients.
Similar events are scheduled in East Grinstead and Haywards Heath in the early autumn, then a further options appraisal meeting will be held to discuss what order of priority projects should be given.
The finalised Five Communities Plan will inform the CCG’s Strategic Outline Case, which will be finalised in early 2015 for approval by NHS England.
Work will then start on developing business cases for the specific projects.
Simon Chandler, lay member for public and patient engagement at the CCG, opened the meeting by urging members of the public to make their voices heard on the future of health services.
He said: “They [the plans] are not set in stone, we are waiting for you to give us your thoughts to make it better.”
Dr Patel explained to the audience that the CCGs now plan, buy, and monitor services after the abolition of the Primary Care Trusts last year.
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