Shropshire Star

Councillors concerned over plans to create Shrewsbury GP hub

Councillors have raised concerns about plans for a GP hub involving six of Shrewsbury's practices.

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Plans for a new GP hub in Shrewsbury have been discussed by councillors

Representatives of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) presented an update on the Shrewsbury proposals to Shropshire councillors at the authority's health and social care overview scrutiny committee on Monday.

The plan, which has not been agreed and is still subject to consultation, would see see six of Shrewsbury's GP practices move to operate at one new, purpose-built premises in the town – although they would still work as individual practices.

No site has yet been set out for the hub – although CCG officials have said they have been looking at the Meole Brace area of the town.

The practices potentially involved include Beeches Medical Practice, Belvidere Medical Practice, Claremont Bank Surgery, Marden Medical Practice, Marysville Medical Practice and South Hermitage Surgery.

Two other practices, Mytton Oak Surgery and Radbrook Green Surgery, will remain at their own sites but some of their services could be provided by the new hub.

Belle Vue councillor Kate Halliday told the meeting that residents had been concerned about where the hub could be based and how they would travel to it.

She said that people who attend a local 'knit and natter' group had been outlining their worries to her.

"Top of the list of concerns is travel - they are really worried about travel," she said.

"Most of them are currently able to walk to see a GP, a few minutes' walk. Many don't have cars, so access in Meole Brace, this would be too far for most of them to walk."

Councillor Halliday said that the worries about transport were being exacerbated by cuts to local bus services.

Claire Parker, director of partnerships at the CCG, said the proposal was being driven by a desire to tackle difficulties in recruiting GPs, which have been affecting practices.

She also reiterated there would be no closure of any practice, and that all six would operate independently at the site.

"Six practices with six separate lists would be moving in, it is not one super practice, it is not one patient list," she said.

"They would be separate lists, they would just be co-located."

Ms Parker said the aim of the scheme was to attract more GPs and provide a better service for patients.

She said: "The idea of having the building and making a better model for delivering care is to expand the workforce.

"By having multi-disciplinary teams, by having good modern facilities, that is what enables you to retain the workforce.

"It is really challenging to retain GPs, so for example, one of our practices cannot get partners because the lease is about to run out and that is one of the surgeries involved in the pilot."

She added: "If we cannot renew the lease then the practice would go, so by having a system-owned building they will be able to retain staff and expand their workforce.

"This is about an expansion and investment in primary care, not a reduction, it is not about cost cutting at all."

Asked if the CCG could look at building six new practices instead, Edna Boampong, Director of Communications and Engagement, said that the money would only be available for the pilot – and that the CCG believed six new practices would still mean problems with recruiting GPs.

She said: "Even if we had the money to build the new practices and had the land to build the number of practices, we do not have the workforce to serve them, that is the reality."

Councillor Bernie Bentick, Liberal Democrat member for Meole, asked for the CCG to write to all 45,000 patients affected by the plans to make sure they are aware of them.

Ms Boampong said that the CCG did not hold the patient lists but had provided information for the practices concerned and suggested they share it with their patients.

She added that this would be taking place by letter or text message.

Councillors had also criticised the fact that they had found out about the plans through the media, with Ms Parker apologising for the initial communication of the proposals.