Rugby GP closures handled ‘abysmally’ say outraged patients

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Patients are outraged at the “atrocious” way NHS England has handled the short notice closure of two GP surgeries.

Albert Street Medical Centre in Rugby and Brownsover Medical Practice, in Bow Fell, Brownsover, will close on April 17 when the NHS contracts comes to an end.

The communication has been atrocious and some people still haven’t received a letter

Jake Stevenson, patient at Brownsover Medical Practice

The practices’ 6,600 patients will be transferred to a temporary surgery in Lower Hillmorton Road on April 18, which will be run by Beech Tree and Market Quarter Medical Practices for one year.

Jake Stevenson, a patient at the Brownsover surgery, said patients were shocked to hear about the closure.

“NHS England have handled the whole situation abysmally,” he said.

“The residents and patients in Brownsover have been, and still very much are, an afterthought. The recent letter from them shows this when they mentioned surgeries within one mile of the Albert Street practice – no mention of Brownsover.

“The communication has been atrocious and some people haven’t received a letter. We should have been told sooner.”

NHS England said some transport would be provided for Brownsover residents but no concrete plans have been revealed yet.

Mr Stevenson added: “While I am able to drive to another surgery, there are plenty of vulnerable and deprived people on our estate who will suffer because of this and may not qualify for the transport or may not be able to afford the bus fare.”

Sue Price, director of commissioning for NHS England in the West Midlands, said: “A letter has been sent out to all patients explaining the situation and outlining the options that are available.

“A number of patient meetings have been arranged so patients can meet with NHS England and the GPs from Beech Tree and Market Quarters Medical Practices.

“We are sorry for any disruption this change will cause and would like to reassure patients that no-one will be left without a GP surgery as a result of these changes.”

More than 50 people attended a heated meeting on Monday at The Harvest Centre in Albert Street, Rugby.

Rugby borough councillor Claire Edwards, leader of the Labour group and ward councillor for Brownsover and Newbold, said the lack of consultation with patients was dreadful. “Patients need to be front and centre of these changes and not at the bottom of the pile,” she said. “At the meeting I met people with life-limiting health conditions whose connections with their GP and the NHS are continuous, so for them to suddenly find out that their GP surgery is going to disappear was really quite shocking.”

The Brownsover practice building is owned by Dr Seshu Kavuri, a partner at the surgery, who drew up the initial plans for the new medical centre in Brownsover several years ago. He reportedly spent £200,000 setting it up but the development was delayed.

His representative, Michael Folly, who manages Dr Kavuri’s commercial interests, said the GP lost the £200,000 and it caused issues at the practice.

He added: “It put severe pressure on cash-flow and this caused tensions between the partners at the practice. They resolved the issues but NHS England decided to withdraw the contract.

“It is difficult for NHS England to defend their decision to move patients out of Brownsover when Dr Kavuri said he was happy to sell or rent the building so patients could still be seen in Brownsover by the temporary GPs.

“Then all of a sudden patients received letters telling them they were being transferred to Lower Hillmorton Road and the GPs at the Brownsover practice were unaware of the content of the letter – it was a surprise to many.”

An NHS England spokesman said it explored running the stopgap arrangement in Brownsover but “it was not available on terms that would make it viable”.

Cllr Claire Edwards, Warwickshire county councillor for Brownsover Cllr Alan Webb and Rugby MP Mark Pawsey, met with NHS England to discuss the closures on Thursday last week.

NHS England confirmed the proposed new medical centre in Brownsover will be going ahead and is expected to be completed by summer 2016. Land near the shops in Hollowell Way, owned by Rugby Borough Council, has been earmarked for the new medical centre for several years.

Mr Pawsey said: “It is imperative that a new centre is provided. I will be doing all I can to ensure that every avenue is pursed with a view to retaining a GP service in Brownsover while the new centre is built.”

Drop-in sessions have been arranged for Brownsover patients on March 9 at 4.30pm and March 13 at 12 noon at the Scout hut, Boughton Leigh Junior School in Wetherell Way.