FROME Medical Practice has hit back at criticism of its proposed new health centre.
The new 4,400 square metre health park will house 35 doctors and include a doctors’ surgery, an optician, a dentist and a pharmacy.
Frome’s Civic Society has raised concerns about the proposed £11million health centre next to Frome Community Hospital, saying the plans would concentrate health provision in the north of Frome.
The society also say that the centre should be built on a different area of land to that proposed. However Frome Medical Practice’s view is that building the health centre is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
Dr Mark Vose, a partner at Frome Medical Practice said, “We’ve been working on this project for 10 years and we’re very excited to bring £11million investment in health services to the town.
“We’ve always believed in the health park concept. The conditions of the funding agreement only allow us to have one building, identified on that site.”
Dr Vose said, “In essence we are only replacing the health centre that existed in Frome Victoria Hospital. We’ve always had that relationship.”
However John Peverley, chairman of the Frome Civic Society said, “There are two issues here. The first is that all the surgeries, except Locks Hill, will be gathered up on the north side of town. For a lot of people who just want a doctor’s appointment, it will not be terribly convenient to travel all across to the other side of Frome.
“At the health centre there would be three teams of doctors, all at one site, why not have one on the south side of Frome?
Dr Vose said that 25 percent of patients in Frome already elected to travel across town to visit health services, and that a surgery would remain open in the Locks Hill area of Frome. In addition, the Frome Medical Practice team is in discussions with bus companies to improve services to and from the health centre site.
Frome Medical Practice has 30,000 patients, almost the entire population of Frome.
Dr Vose said, “We’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with the hospital, I think in Frome we’ve always had a very unique way of providing care compared to Bath for example. We’ve found that very powerful.”
Dr Vose said that advantages of a health centre would include pooling resources so patients can have a “one stop shop” for health needs.
Additionally, working closely with consultants visiting the health park will mean less patients having to travel to Bath for appointments.
The civic society’s second concern is about the siting of the proposed health centre. The plans use a two acre site on the former Frome Cheese Show ground. They say that land to the north-west of Frome Community Hospital, already owned by the NHS, would be more suitable, preventing the loss of the showground land. However Dr Vose said that engineers had reported the land had insufficient drainage to build the centre on. John Peverley disputed this, saying nothing was insurmountable.
Dr Vose added, “Everyone knows that government funding for this sort of project is going to fall off a cliff soon. I think it’s a major coup to have acquired this funding and I think if we don’t take this opportunity now then we won’t have another chance for the next 15 years.”