Gummer anger at Saxmundham blow

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer has criticised a decision not to fund a groundbreaking health and social care scheme at Saxmundham.Disappointed GPs learnt last week that their bid for vital financial support for a one-stop health shop had failed – with local health officials saying it had achieved the lowest scoring of the schemes under consideration.

By Sarah Chambers

SUFFOLK Coastal MP John Gummer has criticised a decision not to fund a groundbreaking health and social care scheme at Saxmundham.

Disappointed GPs learnt last week that their bid for vital financial support for a one-stop health shop had failed – with local health officials saying it had achieved the lowest scoring of the schemes under consideration.

But Mr Gummer, who has met with doctors from the existing Saxmundham surgery, said: "I'm very upset about it indeed.


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"I have written to the primary care trust on their behalf previously, and I'm very sorry they should have made this decision, not least because this was ready to go and some of the ones they have accepted are really a very long way before they can ever be started. I think it was a mistaken decision."

The scheme would have catered for a range of health and social needs under one roof, including a midwife-led birthing centre, a new family support unit, an ambulance station, pharmacy, dentistry, a day nursery and after-school club, and was set for a site off the old A12 towards Kelsale.

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It already had detailed planning permission and developers were ready to start. During the planning process, the project received strong backing from patients and from surrounding parish councils.

Mr Gummer said he would be trying to find out why the Suffolk allocation had been reduced by around £170,000, leaving health officials in a position where they needed to drop one project – ultimately the Saxmundham one-stop shop.

He felt account should have been taken of the different income streams for the wide-ranging project.

He expressed concern that the site, which had been difficult to find, would now be lost.

The present surgery site has flooded twice in the 1990s, which was one of the reasons doctors were seeking a new location.

Richard Smith, chairman of Saxmundham Town Council said they were "dismayed" that the town had lost out.

"More space is needed to provide a wider range of services to the people of Saxmundham and the surrounding areas," he said. "We definitely need a larger doctors' surgery."

The town had experienced rapid growth over the past five years, nearly doubling from around 2,000 to 2,500 to more than 4,000 people.

"The whole thing is very regrettable. It's unfortunate after three years of hard work and overwhelming support in this town," he said.

Dr John Havard, who has been campaigning for the centre for the past three years, felt the crowded surgery would now have to take a step backwards to provide the necessary GP care for the growing population of the town and surrounding area, rather than expanding the range of services on offer, as they would have liked.

"Everyone is really upset, but they have been very supportive. There's a very strong community here," he said. "It has a more profound impact than just this town."

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