Fears over propsed health centre plans
ANGRY patients faced with losing their local GP surgeries have hit out against plans for a purpose-built health care centre in north Essex.Five GP practices in the Tendring area are set to move to a new primary care facility, catering for about 22,000 patients, at the site of the former Eastern Electricity Board building in Valley Road, Clacton.
ANGRY patients faced with losing their local GP surgeries have hit out against plans for a purpose-built health care centre in north Essex.
Five GP practices in the Tendring area are set to move to a new primary care facility, catering for about 22,000 patients, at the site of the former Eastern Electricity Board building in Valley Road, Clacton.
Health officials promise the new centre will provide state-of-the-art facilities including mental health services, district nursing and health visiting, podiatry and minor operations. If approved, it will operate from 2005.
Residents yesterday said they were happy with their existing doctors' surgeries and asked how many of them could travel across town to a new centre.
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The proposed changes are part of an overhaul of primary care services in the north of the county, set out in the local improvement finance trust (LIFT) scheme, with joint funding from Colchester and Tendring primary care trusts.
Residents are currently involved in a ten-week public consultation about the changes.
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The five practices which have committed to the scheme in Clacton are Epping Close, Stephenson Road, North Road, and Grove Lodge Surgery, all in Clacton, and the Queens Way and Frinton Road practices in Holland-on-Sea.
But residents upset by the proposals claimed the consultation process was only a formality and said they would not benefit from any changes.
Stan Tasker, 84, of Forest Park Avenue, Great Clacton, said it would be an uphill struggle to stop the merger going ahead.
Mr Tasker, who is registered blind, currently attends the Epping Close surgery, which was purpose built for the adjacent Kiln Barn Estate.
He said: "The set-up we have here is 100% satisfactory - it is an open surgery where no appointment is necessary. It is perfect for young mothers to walk in early in the morning and then pensioners to come along later.
"The present site is within 50-yards of a bus stop which takes us directly into Great Clacton where there is a great service offered by the pharmacist.
"The proposed site is completely inaccessible and no buses run up there and as pensioners we don't have the money for mini cabs.
"I am convinced they have made their minds up already and there will be nothing we can do to change their views."
Mr Tasker has met Tom Stewart, director of health improvement of Tendring Primary Trust, to discuss the potential problems of a new surgery.
Jean Savage, of Recreation Road, Great Clacton, who is spearheading the opposition to the proposals, is appalled at the prospect of having to travel a long way from her house to get to the new centre.
She said: "I find it a very, very worrying prospect. It is not a practical solution and it seems to be going ahead without regardless of what people think.
"It would not be suitable for young mothers, people with disabilities and people on benefits could struggle to pay to get there because for some people, the journey faced would be many miles."
Mr Stewart said he was sympathetic to the problems faced by patients like Mr Tasker.
He said: "We have taken a lot of time to consider all the options and this really is a case of improving facilities for the future.
"I do have a lot of sympathy for people like Mr Tasker who has excellent facilities at the moment, but in the coming years, his surgery will not have the capacity to cope with the demands of the system."
Mr Stewart said the Government's aim of focusing on more serious operations in general hospitals meant there would be greater need for primary care centres in the future.
He added that finding a suitable transport set-up for the changes was a major priority.
If the projects go ahead, an agreement with a private sector partner has to be signed by the end of December 2003, and building work could start in January 2004.
Harwich MP, Ivan Henderson said it was important for people to get involved in the consultation process.
He said: "We welcome the major investment into all areas in my constituency and also welcome the opportunity of the improved service that people have been hoping for.
"I can assure anyone that passes concerns to myself that they will be discussed with the primary care trust."
Open days for the public to discuss the plans with members of the LIFT project group and other local healthcare providers include-
n Holland Park Public Hall, Holland-on-Sea on March 10 from 9am-5pm to discuss the Great Clacton and Holland-on-Sea surgeries.
n St Johns Church Hall, St Johns Church, Great Clacton on March 3 from 9am-6.30pm to discuss the Great Clacton and Holland-on-Sea surgeries.