GP surgeries across Surrey are facing an uncertain future, with two confirmed closures and a third possibly following suit, which are set to put pressure on those nearby.
Patients say they are worried about the pressures on neighbouring services following the announcement of closures of surgeries in Staines and Guildford.
In Burpham, a petition has been launched to save the Burpham New Inn surgery which is also facing closure.
So why are surgeries closing?
The Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has cited problems with leases and premises, which have led to the closures of two practices in the area.
In Staines, the Staines Thameside Medical Practice shut on Saturday (August 31) following a decision by the doctors to end their contract with the NHS to provide GP services. This was reportedly due to personal reasons.
Patients will lose the St Nicolas branch surgery in Bury Fields, Guildford, which will close at the end of October following issues with the premises and its lease.
Guildford and Waverley CCG has confirmed the surgery will close on October 24. All services will instead be provided by the main surgery at Guildford Rivers Practice in Hurst Farm, Milford.
One St Nicolas patient, who did not wish to be named, said: “I am very upset about the closure of St Nicolas Surgery, it came as a shock.
“[I believe] this was pre-planned since last year but without telling patients previously. I have not received a letter as yet about the closure.
“I think it’s been about a year that all the telephone calls to St Nicolas Surgery have been re-directed to the general practice in Milford.
“The closure of St Nicolas Surgery will put extra pressure on other GP surgeries in Guildford as patients who are ill, disabled, elderly or who don’t drive won’t be able to get to Milford.”
The CCG has said it will work with the practice to ensure that despite the changes, patients will continue to receive high quality care.
A spokesman said: “The CCG received an application from Guildford Rivers Practice that proposed the closure of its branch surgery, St Nicolas Surgery, due to issues with the premises and the lease which was proposed to have had a negative impact on the service offered to patients.
“Following a period of engagement with patients and neighbouring GP practices, the application to close the branch has now been approved by Guildford and Waverley’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee (PCCC).”
The spokesman added: “Registered patients of Guildford Rivers Practice will remain so, following the branch closure, with GPs from St Nicholas Surgery transferring to the main site and continuing to offer appointments to patients.
“Any patients who require home visits will continue to receive these in the usual way.
“The practice is committed to providing the best service for patients by operating solely from the Guildford Rivers Practice main site and the CCG will work with the practice to ensure patients continue to receive safe and high quality care moving forward.”
The news comes as patients await the decision on the future of Burpham’s New Inn surgery. A decision was set to be made on August 28 but this has been delayed.
A spokesman for Guildford and Waverley CCG said: “The PCCC has been re-arranged to ensure every option put to the CCG is fully explored, before a final decision is made.
“The committee has been rescheduled for September 13.”
In a letter to patients sent on July 31, the CCG said it was likely the New Inn Surgery in London Road would have to close later in 2019 due to problems securing a long-term home.
The letter said the surgery’s lease was expiring and no other suitable alternative sites have been found.
Patients launched a petition to save the surgery, which has been signed by 282 people to date.
Around 4,500 patients have had to re-register with another GP surgery after Staines Thameside Medical Practice closed its doors on Saturday (August 31).
Other GP surgeries in the area are accepting new patients despite some having recently had their lists capped.
Two Staines councillors are concerned about the additional pressure on those surgeries.
Councillor Jan Doerfel, Green Party member for Staines, said: “Expecting other GP practices to absorb the additional 4,500 patients is likely to result in longer waiting times for all those affected and additional travel for those that had to enrol with those practices. This is not acceptable.”
Councillor Veena Siva, Labour member for the ward, said: “Yet another GP surgery closes. Smaller practices are closing due to underfunding and insufficient GPs which means they can no longer be run safely and sustainably.”
She added: “As it stands, it is unfortunately no surprise that there was no interest from GPs to take over the surgery when in doing so all they would face is under-resourcing, enormous pressure and stress.”
NHS North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was responsible for supporting patients as they switched to a different GP service.
St David’s Family Practice Doctor Jagit Rai works at one of the surgeries receiving patients from Staines Thameside and is a governing body member at NHS North West CCG.
Doctor Rai said: “The closure of this practice does not relate to funding or staff shortages. The CCG was disappointed to receive notification from GPs at Staines Thameside of their decision to end their contract with the NHS to run the surgery.
“They made this decision due to a change in personal circumstances that could not have been predicted or planned for. The CCG asked neighbouring practices about the option to take over the running of Staines Thameside and reviewed their capacity to take on new patients.
“The surgeries decided the best way to care for Staines Thameside patients is at their practices where they can benefit from an established team and range of services.”
It’s slightly brighter news for the residents in Chiddingfold, where a new surgery is being built after the former building was destroyed by a fire.
Chiddingfold Surgery in Ridgley Road was gutted on January 7, 2019.
Plans were submitted in March to Waverley Borough Council for the complete rebuild.
The surgery has relocated to Cedar ward at Milford Hospital, where full doctor and nurse surgeries are in place. Expanded opening hours are available for patients at Dunsfold surgery.
Update : Diane Taylor in the Guardian 8th September 2019: London GPs told to restrict specialist referrals under new NHS …The New “Rationing Plan”. Plans for new cuts sent same day Boris Johnson reinforced NHS spending commitments..