'Mourners' hold candlelit vigil as Shrewsbury GP surgery closes for good
Candles were lit by 'mourners' outside a busy Shrewsbury GP surgery as it closed its doors for the final time today.
Campaigners held the vigil to mark the closure of Whitehall Medical Practice, conceding defeat in a hard-fought battle to keep it open.
It was revealed this summer that Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had failed to find a new provider to take over the running of the medical practice, which had more than 3,700 registered patients.
The announcement led to protests and a petition bearing more than 1,000 signatures being presented to Shropshire Council.
Patient Dennis Cheese, who spearheaded the campaign to save the practice, said its closure felt like losing a family member.
"We have fought a fight but we have lost," he said.
"We are here to mark the closure and offer our support to the people in there who have looked after us over the years.
"I spoke to the manager yesterday and apparently the building is going to stay empty. Why couldn't the contract be extended by a few months?"
He added: "I feel like I have let everybody down. I started this campaign up and we have lost.
"I am frustrated that the CCG didn't reach out to us. I can't get my head around how a public body can be so powerful and not be willing to engage with the public.
"I am in mourning. It is like someone has died."
Councillors David Vasmer and Kate Halliday were among those also at the vigil.
Councillor Halliday, who represents Belle Vue, said: "I haven't felt that the CCG did enough to keep this practice open.
"They didn't put together a good contract to attract people to bid. I am not surprised people didn't tender.
"It was a very rushed tender process, much quicker than NHS England guidelines say it should be.
"The big issue is how the patients have been treated – finding out in the press and having very little communication from the CCG."
Mr Cheese, who was among more than 1,000 patients still registered at Whitehall on the day of its closure, said he had only received a letter from the CCG the previous day assigning him a new practice.
Councillor Vasmer said: "The CCG has failed to engage with some of the arguments we have put forward.
"The CCG is a public body and should be more accountable."
He said it was likely that the dispersal of Whitehall patients to other GPs in Shrewsbury would mean that the town was "very close" to a point where all practices were full.
Councillor Vasmer also criticised the CCG for having "no urgency" in helping people register with a new GP.