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‘Serious concerns’ as Hywel Dda Health Board confirms closure Johnston Surgery

  • Pharmacist slams “a dereliction of duty” putting patients at risk
  • Board ignores GPs who say they’re already overburdened
  • Managed practice in Neyland could still be short of GPs

EXCLUSIVE

GP SERVICES in Johnston will stop at the end of October, The Pembrokeshire Herald can reveal.

Current patients registered with the practice will be forced to other GP practices over their and those practices’ strenuous objections.

4,000 patients will remain registered with a GP practice managed by the Health Board and based in Neyland.

Based on their geographical location and list availability, the remaining patients will be forced to go to GPs in Haverfordwest or Milford Haven.

In reaching its decision, the Board ignored objections from patients based in Johnston, the lack of suitable public transport, rejection of the proposals by Johnston Community Council, concerns expressed by Johnston Pharmacy, IT issues, and other GP practices’ unwillingness and lack of capacity to deliver services.

Instead, the Board decided that a Health Board Managed Practice be established to operate from St Clement’s Surgery in Neyland to serve those patients living in Neyland and the surrounding area.
(approximately 4,000 patients).

Those patients living closer by travel time to another GP Practice than St Clement’s will be re-registered with the closest practice (approximately 2,000 patients).

The Board claims that decision is in line with the Health Board’s strategic aim of delivering care closer to home by delivering it in less convenient locations further from people’s homes.

No existing GP practices were prepared to run the General Medical Services contract for Neyland and Johnston.

One respondent said: “I have serious concerns about the systematic and insidious degradation of health services in Pembrokeshire by Hywel Dda Health Board.

“The inability to recruit and retain medical professionals in Pembrokeshire to run local GP surgeries and hospital facilities is a direct result of either deliberate or consequential actions by this health board and is deeply concerning.

“The fact that HDUHB sent out a six-page document requesting feedback on a serious situation of potential loss of the sole medical practice in the town, and less than half a page is given space to express those concerns, the remaining pages that are dedicated to requests for data on my ethnic, sexual and gender specifics would indicate to me that your attention is perhaps not focused on the right priorities of issues requiring being urgently addressed.”

Robert Street Practice in Milford Haven said: “We are very concerned that changing the practice boundary, deregistering patients, and allocating them to neighbouring practices will destabilize these practices.

“As you know, we have ongoing sustainability issues and feel that any change to our list size could exacerbate this.

“We continue to operate an open but closed list, in line with BMA guidance due to workload issues. However, our list size continues to grow due to ongoing patient allocations.

“We are concerned that the LHB have not considered our position and how the proposed sudden influx of patients could impact on our ability to provide services for our patients.”

St Thomas Surgery, Haverfordwest said: “We currently have sustainability issues ourselves. We have struggled to recruit suitable clinicians (doctors/nurses) over the last 2 to 3 years. We have not successfully replaced a retiring partner.

“Our practice will have 3 doctors over the age of 60 in the next 12 months. Retirement may occur at short notice, especially if clinical practice becomes unsustainable.”

St Thomas’s also points out the list reallocation comes at a particularly busy time, as GPs prepare to deliver flu vaccines and covid boosters during October and November.

Winch Lane Surgery made much the same points, adding: “Further increase in the practice population cannot be matched by an increased number of clinicians as there are no rooms for them to work in.

Responses from GP practices and the public also pointed out that new housing developments were already increasing the number of patients each practice registered before adding in extra patients from the closed GP base in Johnston.

And that’s before new patients’ details are screened and considered by the GP practices to which they are shunted.

Simon Noott of Johnston Pharmacy said moving GP services away from Johnston could undermine his business’s viability.

He added: “It would be a massive blow to the population of Johnston if they were to lose their surgery. Johnston village has a significant population; many needing medical services have limited mobility and would have to make the choice of postponing/not receiving treatment if moved to a different town.

“There is also a large population on low incomes who would find the cost of transport to another town prohibitive and an impediment to accessing GP services.”

Mr Noott concluded: “It would be a dereliction of duty for the Health Board to leave this population under provisioned and the result will lead to significant patient harm.”

Not only were Simon Noott’s concerns given a load of soft soap by the Board, but it also ignored every concern expressed by the GP practices.

The Board even acknowledges that position when defending its “challenging decision”.

It concedes regardless of the feeling of patients and stakeholders, the need to balance the risk of future service delivery outweighed public feedback and the concerns of health professionals.

On Monday (Sept 26) the Health Board issued a statement claiming no decision had been made.

However, if the Board contradicts its own expert panel, it will have to find enough GPs to staff both surgeries when its vacant practice panel says that can’t be done due to a lack of GPs. Contradicting a finding made twice by its own advisors would be unheard of.

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