Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley is to look at the circumstances surrounding the planned closure of Newcastle-under-Lyme’s popular High Street Medical Practice following an intervention by the town’s MP in parliament today.
At health questions, Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly challenged Mr Lansley over the closure plans and also a wide –ranging shake-up of the NHS, which is currently happening across Staffordshire.
‘In Staffordshire, [NHS] Primary Care Trusts are pre-empting legislation, by re-organising now,’ Mr Farrelly told a packed House of Commons
‘This has led to plans to close the popular High Street practice in Newcastle, simply because it is run directly by salaried GPs. Can I ask the Secretary of State: is this truly NHS policy and, if not, what he will do to help its 5,000 patients save this much-needed surgery?’
The PCT announced the plans two weeks ago, taking patients and the local community by surprise. In response, after being inundated by complaints, Mr Farrelly called a meeting with local NHS chief executive Graham Urwin eleven days ago - where angry patients told of the excellent service given by the practice’s five GPs and their anger and bafflement at the plans.
At the meeting, Mr Urwin undertook to look at a partnership proposal, involving the GPs and another Newcastle surgery. That has to be received by the PCT by the end of October.
In the House of Commons, Mr Lansley denied that the NHS was acting improperly before controversial reform legislation had completed its passage through Parliament.
Closure plans for the High Street practice had not involved the Department, he added. It was a local decision, but he would look at it and write after the question, he told Mr Farrelly.
North Staffordshire Primary Care Trust – which runs health services in Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands - announced the closure at the end of September, citing government policy on it only commissioning, not providing, health services in the future.
All GP practices, as well as community hospitals and services like district nursing, have been hived off into a new body – the Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent NHS Partnership Trust.
Most surgeries are owned and run by GPs themselves – but seven years ago the old PCT in Newcastle decided, in response to demand, to open and run a practice itself.
Controversially, and to widespread disbelief, Mr Urwin and his board have now decided it doesn’t fit and, after trying to sell it off, have decided to shut it down by March 2012. A similarly run practice in Biddulph has already gone the same way and its patients dispersed.
The Government’s controversial NHS reform Bill is currently stuck in the House of Lords, but from 1st December the NHS in Staffordshire is effectively merging its three existing PCTs nonetheless. From then on, organisations serving Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle and the Moorlands, and the rest of the county will report to the same board.
‘This is absolutely absurd. Not only did the government promise no more ‘top down re-organisations’ at the election, but they are now shutting perfectly well-run GPs surgeries because of a new, dogmatic model of how they want to run things,’ Mr Farrelly said.
‘The NHS opened practices like this because they couldn’t otherwise get GPs to go into areas to meet demand. It was perfectly sensible.’
‘I’ll be following up with further questions to Mr Lansley myself as to how many thousands of patients, often no doubt in more challenging areas, are suffering up and down the land as a result of these ridiculous changes.’