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Surgery closure sparks fears of GP shortage

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PLANS to close St Damian’s Surgery on Spa Road has sparked concern that there are not enough GPs in the town to support Melksham’s growing population. 

Patients of the surgery have branded the proposal as ‘complete madness’, whilst a local councillor has appealed to the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group for funding for additional GPs and nurses at the remaining two GP practices – Giffords Surgery and Spa Medical Practice – should the closure go ahead.

The Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership, who manage the surgery, has applied to the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to close St Damian’s by the end of March next year. The partnership says it has been unable to recruit enough clinicians following the retirement of three full-time GP partners.

Around 3,500 patients have been told that if the closure goes ahead, they will either have to visit the partnership’s other surgery in Bradford-on-Avon or register with Melksham’s remaining GP practices.

But Melksham remaining GP practices are already overflowing.

St Damian’s Surgery patient, Mark Earl, told Melksham News, “This is complete madness! Thousands of new homes being constructed around Melksham and one of the major surgeries that service the ever-expanding population is shutting. 

“My 93-year old mother, another patient, who lives at Wharf Court is virtually housebound. We can just about manage to get her to St Damian’s when absolutely necessary, but Bradford-on-Avon would be a terrible trial for all concerned.”

Patient of the surgery, Sylvia Cook said, “My understanding is that the Spa and Giffords surgeries are also stretched, with all the new housing bringing more people to Melksham. Surely we need more, not less GP capacity.”

In the wake of the news, Wiltshire councillor and town councillor, Jon Hubbard, has stressed that the focus should now be on the number of GPs available to support Melksham, rather than the number of surgeries. Speaking to Melksham News, cllr Hubbard said, “Obviously I am very disappointed with the proposals regarding St Damian’s Surgery and would rather retain three doctors’ surgeries in the town, but if this happens, what we need to do is ensure we have the right number of practitioners in Melksham.

“I have written to the Wiltshire CCG asking if funding will be given for additional GPs and nurses at our two other surgeries.

“Residents in Melksham must be given adequate and honest reassurances about the impact of any closure and how the pressures it generates will be appropriately managed.”

Patients who have questions or would like further information about the proposed closure are being asked to contact St Damian’s Surgery. The surgery will also be hosting two public consultation meetings on Wednesday 5th December at 2pm at the Assembly Hall; and Monday 10th December at 7pm in the Town Hall.

Dr Janice Patrick, senior partner at Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoAMHP) said, “This has been a very difficult decision for us to take. Over the past year we have put a lot of measures in place to try and maintain the surgery at St Damian’s, but we find ourselves in a position where we cannot continue to provide a service in Melksham with the resources we have available to us.

“BoAMHP is keen to continue to provide services to as many of the St Damian’s registered patients as wish to stay with their current GP, should our proposal to close the surgery at St Damian’s be approved. We are writing to all St Damian’s patients to explain to them what the proposed closure would mean for them.”

In response to the proposed closure, Spa Medical Practice  has said that it will not be accepting any new registration requests from St Damian’s patients at this stage, until the result of the consultation is announced in the new year. Giffords Surgery has said that it has capacity to accept any new patients that would like to register.

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