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Closure sparks fears of long wait times to see GP

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NEWS of the closure of St Damian’s Surgery has sparked concern that wait times for appointments will increase at Melksham’s remaining two GP surgeries.

It was announced last week that the surgery, which is managed by Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoA&MHP), is to close at the end of March as it says it cannot continue to provide a service in Melksham due to ‘a lack of resources’.

St Damian’s 2,500 patients have been told that they can remain patients of BoA&MHP by using their surgery in Bradford-on-Avon; or they can register with Melksham’s remaining GP practices, which are both currently accepting new patients – but under increasing pressure.

Following the announcement, patients of Giffords Surgery and Spa Medical Centre have criticised the decision, highlighting the already long wait for routine GP appointments they experience.

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), who approved BoA&MHP’s application to close St Damian’s, says that plans are in place to ‘increase capacity and manage the workload’ across Melksham’s two remaining surgeries. However, following the news, residents have been quick to vent their frustration.

Giffords’ patient, Anne Sullivan said, “This is a joke – you can’t get an appointment at Giffords now, what will it be like when all the new houses are built and with the extra     patients from Damian’s?”

Spa Medical Centre patient, Natasha Mason added, “I can appreciate that funding and recruitment may be an issue but as a Spa Medical patient I worry how this will affect waiting times. The surgery is already always packed and struggling to get appointments.”

Another Spa Medical Centre patient, said, “I went to Boots to collect my prescription, but they didn’t have it. Apparently I’m not the only Spa patient this has happened to – according to the person in Boots, Spa has been inundated by St Damian’s patients and are so busy have forgotten to send over prescriptions to pharmacies.”

Spa Medical Centre patient, Jess Dennis said, “I’m a patient at Spa and (I’m) being sent to Giffords for my appointment, with over a week waiting. This is the second time, (and) that’s with over 20 minutes waiting to actually speak to reception on the phone at Spa.

“It’s nice they’re sharing patients to make sure people get seen, but if it is like this now,  (I) dread the next coming months – serious problems are on the rise. How are they going to cover this? Longer hours? More stress on staff? Open Saturdays, Sundays?”

Local councillors and MP Michelle Donelan have also criticised the CCG’s decision, highlighting the need for sufficient healthcare provision in the town.

In his role as Wiltshire councillor for Melksham South, cllr Jon Hubbard said in a letter to the CCG,  “What steps are being taken to provide adequate long-term GP and medical professional support for the Melksham community?

“I am extremely concerned that while our town and surrounding villages are continuing to expand at ever increasing levels, the CCG is allowing yet further cuts to our healthcare provision.”

Local MP, Michelle Donelan, said, “I am deeply dismayed that the CCG has sanctioned the closure of St Damian’s after initially asking that the Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership keep the practice open last year. A significant issue that often arises on the doorstep is the provision of services to accommodate the expanding population of the town. 

“I am passionate that everyone should have access to the amazing service the NHS provides. I had spoken to and made my representations to the CCG on this matter and am most disappointed. I have a meeting this week with Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary of State, to discuss the problem Melksham faces with GP provision.”

A spokesperson for Wiltshire CCG said, “Following an application from Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoAMHP) we have approved the closure of St Damian’s surgery in Melksham. Since March 2019 St Damian’s surgery has been operating on reduced hours with Melksham patients making more use of the other BoAMHP surgery sites.

“From July 2019, BoAMHP, Giffords Surgery and Spa Medical Centre have been working together as a Primary Care Network (PCN), allowing them to operate at scale to provide the best healthcare coverage for the local area. As a PCN they have plans in place to increase capacity and manage the workload in Melksham across the two remaining surgeries. Patients can choose to remain with BoAMHP and visit their other surgeries, or register with either Giffords Surgery or Spa Medical Centre who are both accepting new patients.

“We will continue to work closely with the PCN to assess the impact of the closure of St Damian’s surgery and ensure appropriate levels of quality services are available to all.”

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