Future plans for Bognor Health Centre revealed

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Bognor Health Centre is staying put with future opportunities to improve the standard of the building, councillors have been told.

Arun District Council’s Overview Select Committee received a briefing from representatives of the NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group on healthcare in the area on Tuesday night (January 14).

Simon Clavell–Bate, head of estates at the CCG, explained that central funding for any improvements to doctors’ surgeries are held by NHS Property Services.

He said: “What we have been doing as a CCG is we have put forward improvements or enhancements across the patch.”

Plans are already in place for an extension to the Croft Surgery in Eastergate to expand its capacity from 11,000 to 20,000 patients, while for Pagham and Bersted improvements to Grove House are being explored.

Bognor Health Centre

He also fielded questions about the future of the Bognor Health Centre in West Street since the site is no longer included in Arun’s regeneration proposals.

Mr Clavell-Bate said: “What we are looking to do is to update and improve the health centre rather than it being reprovided.”

He described how they would be working with NHS Property Services to bring in another occupier for the building alongside the community trust and primary care services.

The GP practice itself in the health centre was ‘running really well’.

He added: “Is the building the best it can be? No, it’s not, but with the access and the rooms the GPs like it there.”

An ‘interested party’ was currently looking at taking over the vacant first floor of the health centre.

He said: “Then we can get that building to a better standard but running more services from it.”

Paul English (Con, Felpham East) asked about the life span of the building given it was built in the 1960s, describing it as ‘incredibly old’.

Mr Clavell-Bate replied: “NHS Property Services say it is structurally sound. It has a life expectancy going forward.”

Better skill mix at GP surgeries

More generally across the area, Sarah Henley, head of primary care for the CCG, talked about how the GP practices were looked to increase the skill mix of their workforce.

This meant hiring social prescribers, who can signpost patients to other non-GP services, clinical pharmacists, physiotherapists and physician assistants.

GP practices have also come together to form primary care networks (PCNs), with ten across the whole Coastal West Sussex CCG area.

These PCNs aim to build on the core of current primary care services and enable greater provision of proactive, personalised, coordinated and more integrated health and social care.

She said: “Pressure on GPs is immense. If they do not work together and mix the skills of their workforce, some practices would not be able to survive.”

Recruitment a big issue

On the issue of recruitment, which is a national issue, many trainee GPs do not want to be partner in a practice given the ‘additional stress’, with many looking to build a portfolio career instead.

One of the challenges was to market the area as a ‘great place to work’ Ms Henley said.

She added: “At the moment GPs are working 12 to 15 hour days because they see patients and then they have to do the paperwork. It’s an awful lot.

“We have to adapt and look at how we can alleviate the GPs’ workload for them to want to thrive in these patches.”

The three CCGs across West Sussex are set to merge into one single body in April in order to save resources and work together more strategically across the county.