Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Keeping patients in the dark in Burry Port

Published in Llanelli Herald on 19th May 2017

Hywel Dda Health Board have made the decision to close Harbour View surgery in Burry port in the light of the decision by Dr Lodha to retir

Doctors retire all the time and this should not have come as a huge surprise. But rather explaining to the patients of the surgery back in February what the options were for them when this single-GP practice hands back their contract to the Health Board, some patients have only just had letters telling them the surgery is to close in July and they are being ‘dispersed’ to Doctors as far afield as Kidwelly, Trimsaran, and Pontyates.

The problem is that nearby Doctors surgeries are ful

Needless to say there is huge local concern and on Tuesday night 250 patients attended a public meeting called by Nia Griffith and I, along with local County Councillors John James and Amanda Fox.

But despite our best efforts the Health Board would not attend to listen to people’s concerns and explain their plans.

As I drove to the meeting the Health Board called to confirm they plan to shut the surgery in the summer after a panel decided this was the best option. But as part of their decision-making it seems that this panel doesn’t seem to think that engaging with the public, and explaining the options, should be part of their role

The local Health Board have known about it since February, yet have failed to explore avenues that would lead to the surgery staying open, and haven’t yet officially communicated the closure to all of the patients. Instead of a categorical response, residents have been drip-fed information from various sources, including the beleaguered surgery staff and a pinned notice on the front of the door.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the underlying issue here - there is a shortage of GPs in Wales, as there is all over the UK.

GPs increasingly want to work flexibly or part-time, and are less keen on buying into a traditional practice (not everyone realises surgeries are basically private businesses that contract to the NHS). Younger doctors also tend to want to be in cities. In fact the model of a single GP practice - like Harbour View and Andrews St in Llanelli - is fading out because of all these reasons.

When a Doctor does retire the Health Board has been trying to keep surgeries going by bringing in Locums. When this happened in Kidwelly some were charging £1,500 a day, and stipulating the sort of work they would and wouldn't do.

Eventually Kidwelly has been able to recruit (not as many as they would like), by supplementing the doctors with other professionals like physiotherapists, nurse practitioners and a pharmacist - this is a sensible model as we don't need to see a doctor for everything).

But what the health board plan to do in Bury Port I do not know as they haven't told me, nor anyone else it seems. The lesson from Kidwelly was to involve patients from the beginning and to be open about the choices that the health board face - this lesson seems to have been quickly forgotten.

I’m meeting the Chief Executive of Hywel Dda on Friday to let him know about the public meeting and to ask him to personally intervene to ensure that people in Burry Port get easy access to the best health care, and are kept fully involved.

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