Officials from the East & North Herts Care Commissioning Group met with residents at a chaotic public meeting on Wednesday evening (16th October) to discuss the closure of Ware Road Surgery.
The meeting took place at the Methodist Church Hall in Ware Road and was organised by Mike Carn, chairman of the Patient Participation Group.
Clearly surprised by the numbers attending the meeting, Mr.Carn at times struggled to control attendees as hundreds tried to gain entrance to the meeting, with some having to stand outside and listen through open windows. Others had to be accomodated on the stage, with people still arriving as the meeting started at 6pm.
Director for Primary Care Development, Denise Boardman, and Chief Financial Officer Alan Pond were faced with angry questions and comments from patients who lined up to criticise the local NHS for their handling of the closure.
Mr Pond told patients that Ware Road Surgery was a "managed practice" run by healthcare provider Generating Healthcare Ltd, and that contract renewal talks had broken down after the company asked for more money to run the practice. The Orchard Surgery in Buntingford is also run by Generating Healthcare and will similarly close in March 2020.
In response to the closure of Ware Road Surgery, Mr.Pond told patients that the remaining three surgeries in the town are expected to absorb patients, with Wallace House able to accept as many as necessary, Castlegate Surgery accepting up to 2500 and Hanscombe House a further 500.
Hanscombe House recently requested that they be allowed to close to new registrations, but this request was refused by the Care Commissioning Group.
Residents of the Foxholes Estate would be able to register at the Hailey View Surgery in Hoddesdon. Other patients would be able to register in Ware.
Bengeo resident Katerina Ayres represented the views of many attending when she spoke passionately about the want and need for doctors, clinicians and nurses, housed in modern facilities that were accessible; receiving applause from the floor.
Many people challenged Mr.Pond's claim that remaining surgeries would take patients, saying they had been told by those practices that they would not be able to accept registrations. Others were concerned that new patients would put further pressure on already strained practices. Mr.Pond responded that "money follows the patient" and that funding for Ware Road Surgery would in future be directed toward the three remaining surgeries. Staffing numbers would be increased, especially specialists.
Residents were told that they need not take immediate action and to wait for further information about transferring to new surgeries.
In response to concerns that the lease for the buiding housing Wallace House Surgery was due to expire next year, residents were told that it was hoped the lease could be extended. Ultimately it was hoped that a new modern dedicated primary care centre could be provided for the town.
Towards the end of the meeting Alan Pond said that potentially the NHS could organise the automatic transfer of patients, although this would have to factor in patient preferences and match needs with services at other practices.
The meeting finished at 7:10pm, with many people lamenting the lack of detail and incoherent strategies floated by NHS officers.
Speaking later outside the meeting, Ms Ayres said: "The needs of 6000 patients cannot be ignored, the current surgeries are full to capacity already and with more housing planned around Hertford the closing of Ware Road Surgery is a catastrophe for all Residents"
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