Shropshire Star

Councillors call for new option on controversial GP super hub plan

A group of councillors want a re-think over plans for six GP practices to move to a new super hub.

Cllrs Rosemary Dartnall, Kate Halliday and Pam Mosley outside Belvidere Medical Practice, one of the GP surgeries under threat of relocation.

The controversial proposals would see Shrewsbury's Beeches, Belvidere, Claremont Bank, Marden, Marysville and South Hermitage practices re-locate to a new hub at Meole Brace.

Shropshire Council's Labour Group has voiced concern over the plans, and is calling for Integrated Care System (ICS) health bosses to consider spending the money earmarked for the hub on improvements to the individual practices instead.

In a statement the group said: "The proposal for the hub represents a major change to the way health services are delivered and we feel that it is right that residents, many of whom are very concerned about losing neighbourhood services, are offered alternative options within the consultation which is due to launch in October 2022."

Kate Halliday, Labour’s Spokeswoman on Health, and Councillor for Belle Vue, said: "We call on the ICS to include options to invest in the existing surgeries so that residents can keep services in their communities, together with the option to build a new medical practice on Oteley Road to meet the needs of the growing population there.

"The ICS case for change suggests that the existing premises are not fit for purpose and there is not enough space to co-locate services.

"While one of the surgeries in the group is in an old building and some do not do have the capacity to expand, many are modern and have space to extend.

"By extending and improving some of the medical practices in the group, residents could retain existing surgeries in their communities, with additional services being offered from the medical practices that have been improved, and a new medical practice servicing the growing population around Oteley Road.

"We do not have to look far to see how this has worked in other areas. Shawbirch has just opened a brand-new larger surgery to meet the demand of its growing population and Shifnal Medical Practice is about to do the same. These improvements were funded by NHS England, the same organisation which is proposing to fund the hub."

Councillor Rosemary Dartnall, who represents the Column ward in Shrewsbury, added: "There is a lack of public information about a proposed major change in primary care delivery for the majority of Shrewsbury residents, who have not yet been consulted.

"There should be a variety of options on the table, including maintaining community based services, that patients can be consulted on. The majority of residents who have expressed a view are against the hub, perhaps because they have only been told what they will lose.

"The ICS has responsibility to ensure healthcare can be accessed by everyone. A comprehensive travel plan for the hub proposals which includes adequate plans for public transport, demand responsive services for patients with mobility issues, walking and cycling, is essential for staff, patients and their families, so that the public are aware of what they are being consulted about.

"There will need to be clear information about whether patients would have to pay for parking and whether sufficient free parking would be provided in what is already a busy location, especially when football matches are being played."

Monkmoor Councillor Pam Moseley, said: "As councillors, we have not been given enough information to be able to assess the plans, and affected patients certainly haven’t. We need an honest and comprehensive consultation process, so that all those who would be impacted by these proposals can have their say in what is being put forward for primary care in a large part of Shrewsbury."

Councillor Alan Moseley, Leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, added: "Shrewsbury Town Council has been considering these proposals for some time so as to make comments on behalf of Shrewsbury residents.

"In fact we have commissioned a special working party with cross-party representation and chaired by Cllr Kate Halliday. There will clearly be pros and cons involved in the options put forward and, as with any change, there will be room for significant improvement after the views of residents have been truly taken into account.

"One thing is clear: that all council members at both Shrewsbury Town Council and Shropshire Council should set aside party political considerations and seek to bring forward unanimous recommendations and then work together to see them adopted within any scheme.

"I feel that there will be goodwill at Shrewsbury Town Council to show a joint way forward to the betterment of the health and well-being of Shrewsbury people.”

Cllr Tony Parsons added: "The growing population along Oteley Road deserve a local GP surgery and this will also meet the needs of residents in Reabrook who have for a long time have not easy access local GP surgeries."

Responding Dr Charlotte Hart, Clinical Lead for the Shrewsbury Health and Wellbeing Hub, said the money for the project could not be used for other schemes.

She added: "NHS estate, recruitment and retention issues are very real problems for primary care, both locally and nationally. Substantial funding, such as that earmarked for this programme, only becomes available for very specific projects in order to combat the complex problems faced. Our local NHS is in significant debt, like many across the country, and there is no money for capital projects.

“The Shrewsbury Health and Wellbeing Hub will not only provide a state-of-the-art premises but will help to secure the future of the six practices who wish to relocate and be a more attractive proposition to younger GPs wishing to become partners. Of the practices involved, two face lease issues and will need to find alternative premises within the next three years and all but one of the practices have capacity issues and cannot accommodate rising patient numbers.

“The large housing developments planned or underway in the south of Shrewsbury will also create a potential population growth of approximately 16,500, the majority of which are anticipated to register at a practice in the southern area of the town.

“Regarding the consultation of patients and members of the public, we have not yet started the formal consultation process. We have been engaging with our key stakeholders including patients on these plans for a number of months now. The formal consultation will be held later in the year, where more information on the plans will be available, and we will be contacting each of the eight GP practice patient lists to seek their views and involvement.”

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