An option for GP surgery facilities at Horsham Hospital has received backing from several district councillors.
Proposals to co-locate three town centre practices, Orchard, Courtyard and Riverside, to a new medical centre in Broadbridge Heath were unveiled by the Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in July as part of its consultation on the future of local health services.
Doctors have stressed that no final decision had been made but doing nothing ‘was not an option’ as the population of the town increases, with GP surgeries already over capacity.
At a Horsham District Council Health and Provision Working Group meeting last Thursday an alternative option to include GP facilities alongside enhanced services at Horsham Hospital, in Hurst Road, received backing from several councillors.
Several civic buildings in Hurst Road, including the police and fire stations, are expected to be relocated, although firm plans have yet to be announced.
David Skipp (LDem, Roffey North), chairman of the working group, said: “We have got sites up there which actually we could develop into a superb facility right by the hospital. It could be a very exciting challenge.”
While the retention of a town centre base has been discussed if the practices move to Broadbridge Heath, some members felt that asking patients to travel out of the town was a bad idea.
Christian Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West) explained that original plans for the West of Horsham development involved GP services within the new village community centre, but HDC had recently opened dialogue with the CCG over a medical facility within a new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
Mr Mitchell said: “We should be steering them not in that direction but to a town centre site. Why do we want pregnant mothers, elderly and the infirm worrying about getting a taxi to Broadbridge Heath?” He added that having people visit Broadbridge Heath and taking visitors away from the town centre was ‘absolute madness’.
Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the council’s Lib Dem group, agreed, saying that forcing patients from her ward to see their GPs in Broadbridge Heath was ‘absolutely unacceptable’ and ‘disastrous’.
She favoured making use of Hurst Road, with the possibility of health and wellbeing services as well as an assisting living facility. She explained: “It’s a very exciting possibility for the town.”
Dr Skipp added: “Maybe it’s blue sky thinking but the possibilities are immense for Hurst Road and that site.”
He continued: “I do not think it’s out of the realms of possibility, [but] if the three practices have agreed to go to Broadbridge Heath the whole thing is dead in the water.”
The CCG’s Strategic Service Development Plan lists building a new General Practice at the Horsham Hospital site to replace one or more of the town centre practices (Orchard, Riverside, and Courtyard) as a potential scenario for its ‘Strategic Estates Plan’.
Tricia Youtan (Con, Itchingfield, Slinfold and Warnham) added: “There’s a huge desire to make sure Horsham Hospital is seriously utilised.
“It could be described as a jewel. Its position is ideal. It’s a crying shame it’s taken so long to think about it.
“We owe it to the community to ensure as much as possible is done there.”
Planning the future of our GP services: page 32
Comment and letters: pages 34-37