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PLANS to close St Damian’s Surgery on Spa Road have again sparked concern that there are not enough GPs in the town to support Melksham’s growing population.
For the second time in 15 months, Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoA&MHP), who manage the St Damian’s Surgery, has applied to the Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to close the surgery.
Critics have called the plans ‘ridiculous’ with the increasing number of homes being built and the increasing difficulty to get a GP appointment.
BoA&MHP says it cannot continue to provide a service in Melksham due to a lack of resources, and has asked to close St Damian’s Surgery at the end of March.
In response, Wiltshire councillors representing Melksham have appealed to the CCG to consider the number of GPs serving the town. Councillors say that as the population of Melksham is forecast to grow year on year, new investment is required in local NHS services to keep pace.
St Damian’s Surgery patients have also branded the proposal as ‘appalling’, accusing BoA&MHP of closing the surgery by ‘stealth’. after their previous application to close St Damian’s was rejected last year.
Since the refusal by the CCG last year, patients at St Damian’s have seen a reduction in the surgery’s opening hours, and a number of services move to the Bradford on Avon Health Centre, which BoA&MHP also manages.
St Damian’s Surgery’s 2,500 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, which are both currently accepting new patients.
A St Damian’s Surgery patient said, “They’ve been closing it by stealth for a year, their resources are being used to maintain their two surgeries in Bradford on Avon.
Another patient added, “The other surgeries are full, so what are the Melksham patients supposed to do who can’t travel to Bradford on Avon? How can the council approve all the extra houses without a decent infrastructure in place? It’s all just ridiculous!”
Wiltshire councillors at this month’s Melksham Area Board, unanimously voted to lobby the CCG, raising concern about the reduction in GP capacity for Melksham, if the St Damian’s Surgery closure gets the go-ahead.
Speaking at the meeting, cllr Jon Hubbard, who is also a town councillor and mayor, said, “For me personally, the number of surgeries we have in Melksham is academic, the real challenge is the number of practitioners – the number of GPs and nurse practitioners.
“And if one surgery is closed and taken away, even though they are only open half a day, five days a week, we are still losing that capacity. And we are not getting more GPs or nurse practitioners coming into the other two practices.
“I propose that we lobby the CCG, telling them we have no comment with regards to whether a surgery should open or close, but that we are concerned about the number of active practitioners in the community. We have lots of new homes being built, but we are seeing a significant reduction in a really important amount of infrastructure that we have.”
In response to questions from Melksham News about the number of GPs in Melksham, a Wiltshire CCG spokesperson said, “The application by Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership to close their St Damian’s branch surgery will be considered at a meeting on 30th January.
“There is no target number of patients per GP – as a CCG our aim is to ensure the people of Wiltshire have access to the right health services at the right time.”
BoA&MHP was approached for comment.