Health service shake-up planned

A SHAKE-UP of the health service on the Shotley Peninsula could see a new, bigger doctors' surgery built to serve the whole area.The new facility would replace the two GP practices currently on the peninsula at Holbrook and Shotley.

A SHAKE-UP of the health service on the Shotley Peninsula could see a new, bigger doctors' surgery built to serve the whole area.

The new facility would replace the two GP practices currently on the peninsula at Holbrook and Shotley.

The plans are being mooted by Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) and are only in the initial stages.

Meetings are being held over the next few weeks at local parishes to gain the public's views on the idea, as well as determine what they think is the best site for the building.

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It is hoped work would start on the new building in 2006 or 2007 and it would provide a greater range of health services, such as alternative medicine.

Norman Foster, director of health improvement at the PCT, stressed that the two practices would only close when the new centre was up and running, ensuring a continuity of service.

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He said: “The practice down there has got 8,000 patients and they are all split reasonably evenly at the moment between the surgeries at Holbrook and Shotley.

“In East Anglia anyway the population is increasing and they have no room at all to expand at either of the two sites they have got. They can't go up, sideways or anywhere. They need more room.

“The movement in the NHS now is to get services provided locally and to bring some services that hitherto would have been just available in hospitals out into the community.

“People are then treated more locally and it keeps the hospital for treating serious illnesses.

“In any event something would have had to be done to get some bigger facilities for the patients in the area.

“What's triggered it as an emergency is that on top of the population expanding there is the potential Ganges development down there for 325 homes.

“If that goes through it is going to increase the population dramatically and quickly and there's no way the practice could cope.”

The PCT is asking Babergh District Council to enter into a legal agreement with the prospective developer of the former HMS Ganges site.

If the plans were given the go-ahead, the developer would then be required to put a proportion of funds towards providing any new facilities on the peninsula.

Mr Foster said: “What we are doing now is getting the feeling from the people and what they want.

“We want to get the idea over to people and get some feedback on what they think of one practice on the peninsula.

“There's a lot of opportunities if we are building something like this from scratch.

“It gives us opportunities that are not there on the existing premises.

“You can bring things like echo cardiographs, whereas currently people have to go out to the hospital for them.

“Alternative medicine could also be provided and we could do more prevention work, like provide exercise facilities.

“Understandably the views that have been coming out so far from people we have talked to are pragmatic. They realise the ups and downs.

“There would be better facilities but the down side is that if you are looking at one practice in a place of that size, people may have to travel a bit more, which may be a problem for certain people.

“Looking at the area of the Shotley Peninsula, 30% of people down there have not got access to a car.

“Whatever solution there is it will need to be linked to other things like transport and access to facilities.”

The new building would be partly financed by the PCT. Although, like other trusts in the county, it is financially strapped at the moment, the cash would come from its yearly allocation for 2006-7.

It is likely that the staff at the present practices, who are employed by the surgeries and not the PCT, would be needed in the new building.

David Wood, county councillor for the peninsula, said: “Obviously it is early days yet and a full consultation with the residents of the peninsula would have to take place.

“Providing it is situated in the right place, it could be a boost and a benefit to the residents of the peninsula. The siting and positioning is the main question.

“The community and transport schemes in the peninsula need to be able to serve it. There are a lot of questions to be answered still.”

The next public meeting on the plans will be held in Holbrook on Monday .

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