Villagers scent victory in surgery fight

By Dave GooderhamA 15-YEAR campaign by villagers for a new surgery has finally been rewarded - but only after the casting vote of a primary care trust chairman.

By Dave Gooderham

A 15-YEAR campaign by villagers for a new surgery has finally been rewarded - but only after the casting vote of a primary care trust chairman.

Thurston residents are celebrating after Suffolk West Primary Care Trust approved in principle a new branch surgery for the village, as well as a new GP surgery in Bury St Edmunds.

But the decision for the new village surgery could not have been closer after the trust was divided and chairman Joanna Spicer was forced to use her casting vote.

Mrs Spicer said: “It was a very close decision and having the casting vote is not something I like doing at all, but it had to be done and a decision had to be made.

“I have been in the health service for nearly 15 years and there has been proposals around for a surgery in Thurston all that time.

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“This is the first time GPs have come forward with very good proposals and I want to praise the GPs in Ixworth and Woolpit for their initiative and interest in their patients.”

Parish council chairman Roger Bowden said he was delighted by the decision and added: “Half of the village go to surgeries in Ixworth and Woolpit, but there is no public transport to these villages.

“Some of the surgeries in Bury St Edmunds are full and others are not easily accessible. We are one of the largest villages in England not to have a surgery.”

Mr Bowden has spearheaded the campaign from the outset and he said all the arguments and false hope had now proved worthwhile.

“Myself and a few others started the campaign 15 years ago after we spoke to some elderly people and young mums who said how much they needed a new surgery,” he added.

“It has been quite a long fight. Every so often our hopes fizzled out and we were told Bury St Edmunds was over-doctored.

“We were given all sorts of reasons over the years why we couldn't have this facility, but there is a genuine need for a surgery in Thurston.”

It is hoped the new surgery will also include an on-site pharmacy so residents would not need to travel out of the village.

There was similar celebration among campaigners who have fought for a new surgery in Bury St Edmunds.

Frank Warby, St Edmundsbury Borough Council's portfolio holder for health, said: “I support the trust's decision 100%.

“The town's health provision has got pretty packed up in the last couple of years and, as more and more people come into the area, we need more surgeries.

“We now have to be careful about the geographic location of the new surgery and find out where it is most needed.”

The proposals will now become part of the trust's Local Delivery Plan, which sets out priorities and investments for developing health care over the next three years.

But Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley sounded a word of warning, saying: “There is no clear timescale on when the concrete will be poured for the building or when doctors and nurses will appear.”

Mr Ruffley, who urged Thurston Parish Council to continue lobbying, said he would be arranging a meeting with the trust in the next few weeks to discuss his concerns.

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