Village surgery plan in doubt

By Lisa CleverdonA PLAN to build a “vital” doctor's surgery in one of the county's largest villages could be scuppered because of a new scheme to prioritise spending.

By Lisa Cleverdon

A PLAN to build a “vital” doctor's surgery in one of the county's largest villages could be scuppered because of a new scheme to prioritise spending.

Residents living in Thurston had hoped their 15-year campaign for a village surgery had proved successful when the West Suffolk Primary Care Trust approved the plan principle in September.

But they now fear the surgery may never be built because of a new system to be adopted by Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority.

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Under the new system, all primary Care trusts throughout Suffolk will now have a say in the decision-making process for any new surgery.

It means priority may be given to other towns and villages in Suffolk where it is felt there is a greater need for a surgery.

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David Ruffley, the Bury St Edmunds MP, said: “The surgery was agreed to in principle, which was good news for the village after so many years of hard work.

“But this new system has suddenly been dropped on us and it is a ridiculous example of bureaucracy.”

Mr Ruffley has been assured a decision on whether the surgery goes ahead would be taken in June or July, with funding put in place by September and building work, which should take around a year to complete, beginning in spring 2005.

But district councillor Derrick Haley said: “I am very concerned that the plans will no longer go ahead, but we have been involved in this for a long time and do not intend to give up on our campaign.

“The strategic health authority does not seem to take on board that we are one of the biggest villages in Suffolk with over 3,000 residents as well as a college and primary school and it is ludicrous that we do not have one single medical facility.

“There are a lot of elderly people in the village and everyone is forced to travel to other places which have surgeries and it is not right that they should have to.”

Peter Davies, head of communications at the health authority, said: “There is going to be a lot more demand on money coming in to the NHS and there has to be an objective in place to reassure people their money is spent properly.

“If this new strategy is not implemented, then the capital will be spent on all sorts of various projects and there will be no money left for the towns that really need it.

“Although I can understand the concerns of each individual village, we cannot just give money to the community that shouts the loudest.”

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