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General election delays Fairstead surgery decision

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A decision on the future of an under-threat Lynn doctors' surgery has been delayed until the new year, because of the general election.

Health chiefs had been due to consider plans to close the Fairstead Surgery at a meeting later this month, following a three-month public consultation.

But officials from the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) say that now cannot happen, because of the ongoing campaign ahead of the poll on December 12.

Fairstead Surgery GV King's Lynn (7348260)
Fairstead Surgery GV King's Lynn (7348260)

A briefing note, issued this afternoon and signed by CCG chairman Dr Paul Williams and chief officer Melanie Craig, said the issue will now be examined at a meeting of its Primary Care Commissioning Committee on January 31.

They said: "This week, following the announcement of a General Election due to be held on December 12, we enter a period of time known as the pre-election period or ‘purdah’.

"This is in place to ensure the activities of public bodies do not have an influence on the outcome of elections.

"During purdah there are certain restrictions put in place on the activities of public bodies such as NHS organisations.

There should be no new decisions or announcements of policy or strategy, no decisions on large and/or contentious procurement contracts [and] no participation by NHS representatives in debates and events that may be politically controversial, whether at national or local level.

"Therefore, in line with government guidance, the CCGs of Norfolk and Waveney cannot make a decision on any consultation until after the period of purdah has ended."

As previously reported, the surgery's operator, Vida Healthcare, wants to close the practice, which it says is not fit for purpose, and offer its estimated 4,000 patients the choice of transferring to either the Gayton Road Health Centre or the St Augustine's Surgery in North Lynn.

But campaigners have accused Vida of running down the Fairstead site and argue both that their proposed alternatives are unsuitable and that they risk increasing pressure on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Public consultation on the proposals earlier this year was also delayed because of fears it might interfere with May's local elections.

Last month, a report of the consultation's findings showed criticism of the closure plan outweighed support by more than four to one.

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