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Plans for new GP surgery in Somerton 'are still active'

By Western Gazette - South Somerset  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

TOWN AMBITION: Construction has not yet begun on the long-awaited new GP surgery for Somerton after GP negotiations stalled

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A developer has hit out at rumours that the establishment of a new GP surgery to be built in Somerton is in jeopardy.

A long-awaited new surgery was part of the scheme approved for land on Behind Berry in February – but the plans have stalled as, so far, no GPs have agreed to go into partnership there.

Developer John Bailey, of Close Care Ltd, said it was frustrating as building work on the new facility is ready to begin. He said the process has stalled because discussions were still ongoing between GPs and NHS Somerset’s Primary Care Trust (PCT) about the future of GP provision in the town.

Somerton Town Council expressed concern to the PCT that both Langport Surgery and Penn Hill had declined occupation of the new surgery, but developer John Bailey said this was untrue.

Mr Bailey said: “Langport and Penn Hill were talking to the PCT about the future of GP services in Somerton. Langport has decided that it doesn’t want to take up a contract and Penn Hill is still in discussions.

“We have had initial discussions with both Langport and Penn Hill but the ball is firmly with the PCT.

“We are still committed to providing the new surgery which has been a priority in Somerton for some time.

“We are ready and are due to start work any day but there has to be a group of GPs that want to run services in Somerton.”

Construction of the new premises was expected to begin in June but will not start now until GP agreements have been finalised.

Len Chapman, business manager at Penn Hill Surgery, which manages Somerton Surgery at Cox’s Yard, said it is still the ambition of the surgery to set up a new GP partnership to move into the new facilities in Somerton. He said: “We haven’t given up. We need a new surgery in Somerton but a new partnership with resident GPs would have to be set up. That is what we are striving to achieve.

“We thought we were pretty much there about a month ago with a new partnership with members from the Langport Surgery and some of our own GPs in Somerton, but that has fallen through.”

Fears were raised about the future occupation of the new surgery at a town council meeting last week.

Town clerk Rodger Calderwood reported to the council that Penn Hill and Langport surgeries had both declined taking up occupation to the new premises.

Mr Calderwood told councillors he had sent a letter to the NHS Somerset stating the council was concerned at the lack of progress.

The response was sent after the chairman of the council, Eirian Williams, received a letter from the PCT informing the council that “unfortunately the proposed changes are unable to go ahead as planned”.

Mr Williams told the council: “We haven’t got anyone currently to occupy the new surgery.”

A spokesman for the PCT said that the letter had been misinterpreted by the council.

He said: “The wording within Somerset Primary Care Trust’s August letter makes reference to it being ‘unfortunate that the proposed changes are unable to go ahead’. However, this is not a reference to the proposed development of a new GP surgery for the town. Rather, it refers to the talks, previously taking place between NHS Somerset, Penn Hill Medical Centre and the Langport and Somerton surgeries, the aim of which was to bring about a new, free-standing GP practice for Somerton.

“NHS Somerset wishes to assure local people its aim has always been to work with local GPs to ensure continuity of services for the people of Somerton and to ensure they are able to easily access family doctor services.”

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