Petition aims to stop closure of surgery
A PETITION has been launched by a councillor to stop the proposed closure of Woodland Road Surgery as part of plans to amalgamate patient services onto one site in St Austell.
The petition to NHS England - Save Woodland Road Surgery - has been set up by town councillor for Bethel Graham Walker.
It explains: “Woodland Road Surgery has successfully served residents in one of the most deprived wards in Cornwall for over 20 years.
“At the proposed alternative site there is little or no scope to increase parking, no park and ride facility and a limited bus service. It offers almost no scope for the elderly, young mothers and the most vulnerable, to visit on foot.
“The proposed alternative site has experienced significant difficulty in meeting the needs of its existing patients. The telephone appointments system has come in for extensive public criticism. Adding another 7,500 patients can only make the service worse.
“It is vital that patients retain a local doctor's surgery with easy access.”
Mr Walker set up the petition after the Voice revealed last week that St Austell Healthcare is considering closing the site and moving all services to Wheal Northey to create a better service for patients.
He has also requested a meeting of St Austell Town Council with representatives from St Austell Healthcare.
A meeting was scheduled to take place on April 3 but this has now been put on hold.
Mr Walker said: “In my view St austell residents and their elected representatives should have the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions.
“I’ve spoke to Dr McClure of SAHC to ask him if he was prepared to meet with the council to discuss their proposals. He was, as ever, enormously helpful and readily agreed to attend a council meeting.
“He spoke, at some length, about the difficulties they have experienced in re-organising GP services, in recruiting doctors and the very serious financial pressures they are facing.
“As an elected councillor representing Bethel, my problem with the SAHC proposal are the likely consequences of transferring 7,500 patients to Wheal Northey.
“That site has experienced significant difficulty in meeting the needs of its existing patients. It can take two weeks to get an appointment, it has become harder to see your own doctor and the need to visit other SAHC sites has proved difficult for those without access to a car.
“The telephone appointments system has had extensive and well-documented public criticism.
“There is no doubt that things have improved recently. The emergency appointments system appears to be working well, but the fact remains that the site was never designed for that number of additional patients. There is very little scope to increase parking, no park and ride facility and a limited bus service.
“It will doubtless become even more difficult for the elderly, young mothers and the most vulnerable, to visit on foot. It can, in my view, only lead to gridlock and a worse service.
“That is the reason why I oppose this proposal and am asking everyone who is concerned to come along to the council meeting to have your say and to sign the petition.
“I believe that the NHS is this country’s greatest post-war achievement. It is vitally important that we all work together to retain one of its core principles, namely that all patients have easy access to a local doctor’s surgery.”
While town councillor, Richard Pears, said: “Residents tell me they would happily be seen in a garden shed, provided they have access to doctors when they need them.
“I fail to see how closure of yet another surgery will make local access to medical professionals easier. I understand the desire to centralise, but this must only continue if St Austell’s healthcare can guarantee that this will improve service for their patients.
“Quite frankly this doesn't look achievable. I have therefore requested a council meeting with St Austell Healthcare so that they can demonstrate to us in no uncertain terms, the feasibility of their strategy.”
Dr James McClure, from St Austell Healthcare, said: "Patients are registered with St Austell Healthcare and Wheal Northey is the main surgery. Some 5,600 patients have been seen once at Woodland Road in the last six months but only 150 have been seen there on three occasions during that time period.
"Woodland Road Surgery currently opens for clinical services on three days each week. On average less than 250 appointments are offered at this site every week."