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MP vows to fight closure of Hightown surgery

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson will join with Hightown residents to fight the ‘disgraceful’ closure of the town’s GP practice.

Hightown Surgery will close on June 8 this year after NHS England failed to find a provider to take it over.

Mr Esterson said the decision had “badly let down” the residents of the small town, leaving them without a surgery and threatening the viability of the pharmacy, and he said the Government had serious questions to answer.

The MP, who has worked closely with residents and parish and borough councillors in campaigning against the closure of the practice, added: “The closure of Hightown surgery is a disgrace. NHS England had accepted that it should stay open and they should be keeping it open until they find someone to run it.

“Hightown has a sizeable and growing population. Many are elderly and having to travel to either Formby or Crosby will cause real problems for many vulnerable patients, that is if they can find a surgery that will take them. 

“The Government also has serious questions to answer. What are ministers doing to make sure there are enough GPs, especially as our population is ageing?”

“I shall work with the residents of Hightown to continue to fight this closure.”

The MP, who has led opposition to the closure of the practice, added: “We were led to believe by NHS England that Hightown surgery would stay open. They have given up without a fight and the people of Hightown have been badly let down by NHS England and by ministers. I know that residents will not take this lying down and I shall back them all the way.”

Problems began at the troubled surgery in 2013 when it was taken over by the private company SSP Health. Although the provider promised permanent GPs at the practice, patients found that only locum GPs were put in place and getting an appointment became increasingly difficult. Many patients left the surgery to join Formby or Crosby practices, and in 2015 the CQC found Hightown Surgery to be “inadequate” – the worst possible rating  - after an inspection, and the practice was put into special measures.

SSP was given six months to turn around the failing surgery – and others it ran across Merseyside, including Freshfield Surgery in Formby – but in 2016 the decision was made for other providers to take charge.

NHS England, in consultation with patients, agreed that the Hightown and Freshfield surgeries were viable and needed by their communities, and undertook a process to find new providers.

A provider has been found for Freshfield, but NHS England say the only party interested in running Hightown has withdrawn.

They said in a letter to stakeholders: “We carried out and completed a robust procurement process to find a new provider, but although this was initially successful, the provider has since decided to withdraw their bid. We did not receive any other bids for this contract despite a national advert. We regret to inform you that this means we have no other option other than to close Hightown Village Surgery and transfer patients to another GP practice, despite best efforts to keep the surgery open.

“We know this news will be concerning for local people and we would like you to know that we have done everything in our power to keep the practice open, but there are no further options available to us. The practice will therefore close on 8 June 2018.

“Our main priority now is to ensure patients have continued access to high quality GP services. We are in the process of writing to all registered patients to inform them and are making arrangements for them to transfer care to the GP practice close to where they live. If they do not wish to transfer to the practice allocated to them, they can choose to register with a different GP practice and we will provide details of how to do this.

“Please be assured that we will ensure this transfer happens as quickly and smoothly as possible to ensure continuity of care for all.

“Whilst we are pleased Freshfield Surgery will continue to deliver services locally, we are extremely disappointed that Hightown Village Surgery will close. We know these feelings will be echoed by local people.

“We are committed to keeping local people informed and would like to thank those people who took the time to share their views with us during the listening exercise that was undertaken in the Hightown and Freshfield area.”

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