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THE sudden closure of a Frome doctors’ surgery has been rubber stamped by the NHS six months after it closed in September and despite strong local opposition.
Locks Hill GP surgery, which was run by the Frome Medical Practice, shut its doors on 27th September last year, prompting outrage from campaigners in the town.
In March, NHS England finally said it had approved the closure.
Linda Prosser, NHS England’s South West director of assurance and delivery said, “Following a comprehensive process to consider the application in full, NHS England South (South West) has approved the closure with effect from 24th March 2017.
“We considered the impact to patients as a priority and felt the positive aspects and benefits to patients of centralising services on one main site, outweighed the case for keeping the branch surgery open, especially as a small number of patients used Locks Hill.
“We’re confident that the main surgery will be able to provide more for patients, allowing them access to a wider range of services and professionals.”
Local organisation Fair Frome, which runs the town’s food bank and other humanitarian projects in the town, was angered by the closure.
Trustees of Fair Frome said the closure would make it harder for people in the south of the town to access healthcare. They argued that the consultations were poorly managed, and called the original survey about the practice’s future a ‘sham’.
The group’s chair, Bob Ashford, last week told Frome Times, “I am extremely disappointed with the process and outcome. Frome is a growing town and is in danger of losing most of its public service posts which are essential for those unable to have access to vehicles or unable to use or afford public transport.
“We have already seen the courts close, the police station closed and moved to offices on the top of KFC. Social services and many other services have moved to Shepton Mallet. The pharmacy on Locks Hill must be at risk and now there is a chance the birthing unit at Frome Hospital may also close.”
In response to the NHS decision, senior partner at Frome Medical Practice, Dr Helen Kingston said, “As GPs we are always faced with difficult choices. Locks Hill was a difficult choice.
“Leaving aside the increasing risk element and having to cope with a reduced real income and increasing demand every year, we had to query whether the £50,000 annual cost of just keeping Locks Hill open could be better spent on providing more appointments and easier access to GPs, nurse practitioners and other health professionals.
“We must now look to the future. However, we do so having taken on board the comments and views from our local councillors, the trustees of Fair Frome, our own patients and of course NHS England. We are very grateful for all their input.”