Health chiefs plan to axe top surgery

COMMUNITY leaders last night voiced their shock at plans to close a walk-in health centre judged the best surgery in the country at the start of the year.

The Crown Health Centre was opened in Haverhill in 2009 and has operated as both a regular GP surgery and a walk-in centre for people both in the town and villages such as Kedington, Little Wratting, Great Wratting, Wixoe, Stoke-by-Clare, Hundon, Barnardiston, Monks Risbridge and the Thurlows.

Earlier this year, the centre was rated best in the country in a survey carried out by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Department for Health.

But it has now emerged NHS Suffolk plans to close the centre because no “cost-effective” permanent site has been found for it and because it has not cut accident and emergency admissions in hospitals, as had been planned.

Health chiefs say the centre is costing more than �1.2milllion a year to run.

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Melanie Craig, NHS Suffolk’s director of primary care, said: “We want to provide the best level of healthcare to people in Haverhill and what people tell us about this proposal will help us do that.”

“It is vital that the limited resources of the NHS are used wisely, and this is why we want to know what people think about the proposed closure.

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“Healthcare services are already widely available in the area, with local GP practices providing a minor illness and injury service and local pharmacies providing invaluable advice on self-care at home.”

But Anne Gower, St Edmundsbury Borough Council member for Haverhill, was part of the working group which helped get the centre up and running.

Mrs Gower, who is also a patient there, said: “The service I have had has been absolutely brilliant. Every time I go there are lots of people waiting to be seen, so there’s obviously the need. What I don’t understand is what else is going to be on offer.

“It is open from 8am until 8pm with a drop-in service which is important for the elderly and people with young children. I am very, very surprised that is has not taken any of the heat out of the two accident and emergency departments (West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge).”

Surveys about the proposals are available online at or on 01473 770014.

Nobody from The Practice PLC, which runs the health centre in Haverhill, was available for comment at the time of going to press.

A summary of the responses and the outcome of the consultation will be published on the NHS Suffolk website at and will also be available at the surgeries.

For any further information please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 0800 389 6819.

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