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Last chance for Fairstead Surgery views as councillors claim health chiefs aren't listening

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Councillors in Lynn have accused health chiefs of not listening to public concerns over plans to close a town medical practice.

Today is the last opportunity for residents to have their say on proposals to shut the Fairstead Surgery and transfer its 4,000 patients to one of two other practices.

But, following talks with the surgery’s current operator, Vida Healthcare, and the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group this week, several town representatives have suggested public concerns about the plan are not being understood.

Fairstead Surgery GV King's Lynn (7700854)
Fairstead Surgery GV King's Lynn (7700854)

Springwood councillor Jo Rust said yesterday: “I think they wanted to guide us to accept their preferred option.

“We weren’t willing due to the strength of feeling from the people in the area.”

A three-month public consultation on proposals to close the Fairstead practice, and offer its patients the choice of being treated at either the Gayton Road Health Centre or the St Augustine’s Surgery in North Lynn, is due to end at 5pm today.

The surgery’s operator, Vida Healthcare, says the current building is not fit for purpose and proposals to either refurbish it or build a new practice are not financially viable.

Speaking during a consultation event earlier this month, Vida partner Dr Mark Funnell insisted the organisation wanted to find the best way it could to deliver care.

But he added: “Some of the things there don’t even meet today’s needs and there’s no way it will meet the needs of 15 years down the road, which is what we have to look at.”

However,, although further discussions are set to take place following this week’s meeting, Fairstead ward councillor Gary Howman said the answers given at the session, which was arranged after a county health committee called for talks last month, were “polite, but unsatisfactory.”

He said: “I did make it clear that I was elected to represent the views of the people and they are 100 per cent against this plan.

“I am not going to change my opinion that the loss of a vital health facility would be disastrous.”

South Lynn representative Alexandra Kemp added: “I expect them to listen. There are many compelling reasons why we need that surgery.”

CCG chief officer Melanie Craig said yesterday: “I can assure every councillor in the room and also the people living in Fairstead that we are listening very carefully indeed to what they are saying and we understand fully the issues they have raised.

“I would like to thank everybody who has contributed. Our job is now to reflect on everything that has been said to us and decide a way forward.

“I hope that we can continue to work with partners and patients, including our local councillors, to reach a way forward that is sustainable and fair.”

The consultation survey can be found here.

A decision on the closure proposal is expected to be made by the CCG this autumn, following the completion of a report of the consultation by Healthwatch Norfolk, the body which was brought in to oversee the consultation process.

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