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King's Lynn surgery funding 'at risk' if relocation development delayed

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Health officials have warned earmarked funding for the St James Surgery move will be put at risk if the scheme is delayed.

The preferred relocation site to be recommended in a full business case is the former county council educational site on Edward Benefer Way.

Howard Martin of the Norfolk and Waveney CCG said a quarter of a million funding would be supplied by the NHS Estates and Technology Transformation Fund which comes out of the public purse.

St James Surgery in King's Lynn. Picture: Prabir Mitra
St James Surgery in King's Lynn. Picture: Prabir Mitra

He told today’s county council health scrutiny meeting the new building itself would cost £4.9m which would be sourced by private equity.

Mr Martin said both sources of funding would be at risk if the development is delayed beyond this financial year.

An outline business case is ready for the site with surveyors ready to attend next week.

St James Surgery in King's Lynn has narrow corridors which means wheelchairs struggle to pass. Picture: Prabir Mitra
St James Surgery in King's Lynn has narrow corridors which means wheelchairs struggle to pass. Picture: Prabir Mitra

Patient and stakeholder consultation has also led to a realisation there is a need for a second site on land near Nar Ouse Way.

Mr Martin said there is “a clear route to achieving this now in place” which the CCG is currently facilitating.

He added: "We only had confirmation for funding late last year. There is a need in the south and we will look to progress with the business case. We accept we do not live in a perfect world where we can do it all at the same time.

"But we hope to ensure we can progress as speedily as possible. The CCG is committed to make that happen and acknowledges there is a need."

St James practice manager Kathy Foley told the meeting about the issues at the current site including sewage coming into two clinical rooms which would require digging up the floors to resolve.

She also said there is a lot of dampness in the County Court Road site and draughty windows, while staff are having to use a portacabin for Covid patients because there is nowhere else to go.

Mrs Foley added: “We are trying very hard to provide our service but it’s becoming quite hard.”

Such thoughts were reiterated by Dr Prabir Mitra who spoke about the corridors being too narrow for wheelchairs and being "disadvantaged on a day-to-day basis" at the current surgery.

He said: "We would love to be where we are. It is the practice I trained at and it's a fantastic location, very conveniently located in the middle of the town. We do not want to leave this place but we have no choice.

"We are not moving to a shiny, new building for the sake of it. We understand change can be an advantage for some and a disadvantage to others but for the general need of the population, this needs to be done.

"If any of you could be with us for a day you would see the day-to-day struggle. It's unsafe."

The new Edward Benefer way surgery would have 93 parking spaces and would ensure the problems at St James would not be replicated.

Mrs Foley said she has paid out a "few hundreds of pounds" in the 10 years she has been practice manager due to patients being unable to park and getting tickets.

Councillor David Collis said it was a big advantage the county council already own the Edward Benefer Way site, while councillor Alex Kemp expressed concerns over access for those living in the south.

She said disadvantaged communtities would not be able to walk to the Edward Benefer Way site, although Christopher Acton of the Primary Care Partnership said the proposed location could be accessed by cycle paths and buses at 30 minute intervals.

Mr Acton told the meeting that there was an "extensive consultation" with over 2,000 patients responding to a survey, in addition to interviews with local health and social care specialists, as well as meetings with councillors and NHS commissioners.

A total of 17 sites were considered including Debenhams in Lynn town centre and two other locations on Edward Benefer Way.

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