Health centre plan suffers blow

By Ted JeoryA PLAN for a “once in a lifetime” purpose-built health care centre was clouded in doubt last night after a patients' watchdog rejected the proposal.

By Ted Jeory

A PLAN for a “once in a lifetime” purpose-built health care centre was clouded in doubt last night after a patients' watchdog rejected the proposal.

Fears over “non-existent” public transport links prompted North East Essex Community Health Council to reject the plan to relocate four GP practices in Great Holland and Holland-on-Sea to a new site in Clacton.

Tendring Primary Care Trust, which provoked anxiety among the 22,000 patients affected by the plan, expressed its “deep disappointment” at the health council's decision.

One of the GPs affected by the proposed move urged the trust to press ahead regardless for the “sake of patient care”.

The health council said it had been influenced by the degree of public opposition expressed at its consultation focus group meeting on Monday.

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They heard community representatives voice concerns about moving the “accessible” surgeries to a new site in Kennedy Way, off Valley Road, with thousands of elderly people affected.

In a statement, the health council said: “The proposed relocation to a site accessible for the majority only by car or 'yet to be arranged' public transport was not seen as a viable proposition long term.

“A robust public transport infrastructure would need to be set up with ring-fenced funding to enable patients without their own transport to access the health centre.

“While the health council appreciates the sincerity of assurances by the trust to fund the transport on an ongoing basis, it felt that in reality this was not within their gift.”

The health council voted instead in favour of the second preferred option put forward by the trust - to have two separate centres in Great Clacton and Holland-on-Sea for the two communities.

But Tom Stewart, the trust's director of health improvement, said the two-centre option was “a very poor second”, claiming transport issues may even be multiplied if that went ahead.

He added the trust did have a role to affect transport strategies and found it disappointing the health council had chosen to overlook this and go against 100% GP support.

“What has been overshadowed by the focus on location is the tremendous benefits these proposals will provide to local people,” said Mr Stewart.

“We have before us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide fantastic 21st Century healthcare for the local population.”

He added the trust board would meet in September to discuss all consultation feedback before making a decision on how to proceed.

Dr Abdul Karim Gbla, whose Great Clacton practice is one of the four that may move, urged the trust to press ahead with the Kennedy Way centre.

“Our premises are sub-standard at the moment - patients will undoubtedly benefit from this move,” he said.

“I can't understand the fuss people make about having to get to the surgery. If they have to go to the hospital for tests, they do that - surely they have friends or relatives who can help?

“When the big supermarkets were built away from their homes, people chose to travel to them because they are better - it's the same with us.”