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Fury as Fairstead Surgery faces closure threat

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Patients and local politicians have expressed outrage as a doctors’ surgery on one of Lynn’s biggest estates faces the threat of closure.

Health chiefs claim shutting the Fairstead Surgery, and transferring patients to two other town practices, is the only viable option.

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

But, with the first of three consultation events taking place next week, opponents say they will fight on.

Borough councillor Gary Howman claimed many residents had already contacted him saying they felt the consultation was a "sham" and a decision had already been made.

He said: "I can understand that view. I know the borough council, Patient Group and hundreds of residents will continue the fight to save the surgery.

"I hope by working together we will achieve our aim.

The future of the surgery has been high on the political agenda since residents and councillors joined forces to launch a campaign to save it back in February.

They say the site has been gradually run down by its operator, Vida Healthcare.

Vida and the West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said they would look at potential options and a public consultation would begin after last month’s local elections.

But, although residents now have until late August to have their say on what should happen to the surgery, a newly published consultation document claims the site is no longer fit for purpose and there is no viable alternative to closure.

The document claims discussions have taken place with stakeholders, including local councillors, although Mr Howman says he has never been approached.

Glyn Watkins, chairman of the surgery's patient participation group, said they had also not been consulted, despite repeated requests for information.

He said: "We find this document highly contentious and refute a number of Vida’s claims as inaccurate and misleading."

Under the proposals, patients who are currently registered at Fairstead would be able to receive care at either the Gayton Road Health Centre or the St Augustine’s Surgery in North Lynn, where Vida claims there is room for expansion.

The document said: “This option will allow us to make sure that the premises are appropriate and sufficient in order to continue to deliver safe, quality primary care services.

“We know that some of our patients go to the Accident & Emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital when they can’t get an appointment with their GP.

“The preferred option we are proposing will provide better access to a wider range of clinicians at the Gayton Road and St Augustine’s sites, so there should be less need for patients to consider using A&E.”

But objectors say their own research has shown that many more patients will go to hospital rather than another GP surgery.

The consultation, which runs until August 30 and includes a survey of public views on the proposals, is being run by Healthwatch Norfolk, who are due to publish an independent report of its results in October.

A final decision on Vida’s proposals is currently scheduled to be taken at a CCG meeting in late November.

The first of three consultation workshops will take place at the Fairstead Community Centre next Tuesday, June 11, between 10.30am and noon. Further sessions are planned for July 9 at the community centre and August 14 at the Gayton Road Health Centre.

Anyone who wishes to attend should book places online via https://www.eventbrite.com/e/gp-services-in-fairstead-consultation-workshops-tickets-62498725370 or by phoning Healthwatch Norfolk on 0800 1689669.

The full consultation document and survey can be found via www.healthwatchnorfolk.co.uk/fairstead-primary-care-consultation/

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