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Surgery afternoon closures sparks fresh GP shortage fears

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PATIENTS of St Damian’s Surgery have expressed concern about the potential difficulty in accessing services after it was announced that the surgery is reducing its opening hours.

The Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoAMHP), who manage the surgery, has informed patients that as of Monday 1st April, it will no longer be open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

The reduction in opening hours comes weeks after the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) turned down BoAMHP’s application to close St Damian’s Surgery because they had not been able to recruit enough clinicians following the retirement of three full-time GP partners.

BoAMHP has also this month announced that it will no longer be processing repeat prescription requests at St Damian’s Surgery – moving the service to its health centre in Bradford-on-Avon.

The news has sparked fresh concerns about a GP shortage in the town with only one aternative surgery in the town, Giffords Surgery, accepting new patients. 

The news follows a report in Melksham News last month that Melksham GPs look after more patients compared to the average figure for Wiltshire according to  the NHS. And this only looks set to rise with new housing developments increasing the town’s population and no current plans to build a new GP surgery in the area.

Patient of St Damian’s Surgery, David Gibson told Melksham News, “As my partner and I are registered with St Damian’s, it leaves us feeling a little worried about how difficult it will be to obtain a GP appointment from 1st April onward. 

“If we wanted to transfer to a surgery that’s open all week, we currently only have the one choice, Giffords. The town’s other surgery, Spa Medical Centre has a notification on its website that new registrations are temporarily suspended, and that’s been there since shortly after the proposed closure of St Damian’s was announced. 

“I’m not sure if Giffords could cope with a rush of patients from St Damian’s; it would certainly make obtaining a GP appointment from them more difficult. All things considered, the future provision of GP services in the town is not looking good, and we have very limited choice.”

From Monday 1st April, St Damian’s Surgery will be open 8.30am-12.30pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 8.30am-12.30pm and 2.30pm-6.00pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

BoAMHP was approached for comment, but had not responded by the time the paper went to print.     

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