Newmarket: Out-of-hours health facility could be coming to the town

Forest Health's portfolio leader for health Warwick Hirst wants more detail in the contract for out-

Forest Health's portfolio leader for health Warwick Hirst wants more detail in the contract for out-of-hours provision - Credit: Archant

A change in out-of-hours healthcare could be on the cards for one district council as authorities prepare to renegotiate a crucial contract.

The one out-of-hours facility for Forest Heath is in Mildenhall, with other centres in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill covering the west of the county.

Newmarket councillor Rachel Hood described the lack of a facility in the district’s biggest town as “odd”, but fellow councillor Warwick Hirst said the current deal between the NHS and provider Harmoni meant a facility only had to be within half an hour’s drive rather than be located in a specific town.

The contract is set to expire in March 2015, and Mr Hirst – the council’s portfolio-holder for health, leisure and culture – has already explored the idea of bringing a facility to Newmarket.

At a meeting of the council’s overview and scrutiny panel on Thursday, he said: “I’ve been as far as Suffolk County Council, but the figures they produce relating to Newmarket state that all the requirements are being met, and it’s very difficult to challenge that.

“I’ve had discussions with doctors about this, including consultants, and their technical advice is the best way to get services is to put it into the contract.

“The aim will be to specify within the tender things like having a base in Newmarket, a base in Mildenhall, or Brandon for instance.

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“I’m very hopeful that if we get that [a base in Newmarket] into the tender document, that will definitely happen.”

The new contract will be negotiated by Suffolk’s clinical commissioning group (CCG), a board of GPs responsible for buying healthcare services across the county depending on local priorities.

Other Harmoni out-of-hours services can be found in Eye, Ipswich, Saxmundham, Stowmarket and Sudbury.