Hope for GP surgery saga, health secretary weighs in

Enterprise Hub in Wick. Picture: Steve Robards SUS-161221-104312001
Enterprise Hub in Wick. Picture: Steve Robards SUS-161221-104312001

After years of setbacks, a ray of light has been cast on plans for a new GP surgery in our town as the NHS have finally provided a timeframe for when it will progress.

This news comes as the health secretary weighs in on the continuing saga.

Jeremy Hunt. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Jeremy Hunt. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

A surgery at the Morrisons site in Wick has been in the pipeline for three years, but the latest stumbling block has been finding someone to sign the 25-year lease.

According to Dr James Walsh, former GP and West Sussex County Councillor, the NHS said at a meeting of Littlehampton Health Services Advisory Group on Friday that the issue would be resolved in two to three months.

As a result, Dr Walsh said he feels ‘optimistic’ that a GP surgery in Wick could be built within a year – despite claiming the NHS only started internal discussions six weeks ago.

Dr Walsh said: “I’m an optimist by nature, but I really do feel that at last after three years there is a joined up sense of commitment, acknowledgement of the difficulties and a glimmer of the way forward.

I’m an optimist by nature, but I really do feel that at last after three years there is a joined up sense of commitment, acknowledgement of the difficulties and a glimmer of the way forward

Dr James Walsh

“It is the first time in three years that the NHS has given a timeframe. Always in the past they said we are talking to people and we will let you know.”

The delay on a new surgery has sparked concern from residents and councillors across the political spectrum as more homes continue to be built in Littlehampton.

Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, wrote to Jeremy Hunt about healthcare in the town after himself receiving letters about the issue.

Fitzalan Medical Group and Westcourt Surgery have agreed to run the Wick surgery, but do not want to sign a 25-year lease.

James Walsh

James Walsh

Councillors have claimed NHS England prohibited the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – the local branch of the NHS – from undersigning the lease.

But Mr Hunt said NHS England gave ‘no specific direction’ about the lease and was just following national advice.

Dr Walsh, former GP and town, district and county councillor, criticised the health secretary’s response, saying there was ‘nothing new in it’ and said it was a ‘typical ministerial letter where he absolves himself from all responsibility’.

An NHS spokesman admitted the lease and internal design costs have been holding up progress on the Wick surgery.

A statement said: “We know the Morrison’s site in Wick has hit many hurdles and delays, which is both frustrating and disappointing for all involved.

“The CCG’s responsibility is to commission health services that provide good value for money, whilst ensuring we meet the health needs of our local population now and in the future.

“We have been working closely with NHS England, NHS Property Services, the two GP practices Fitzalan Medial Group and Westcourt Medical Group, and Arun District Council for a considerable amount of time on how best we can progress the development of health services in the north area of Littlehampton.

“This isn’t an easy process and there are still issues to be resolved around the long-term management of the lease and the internal design costs, which need working through if the local NHS is able to progress with this site.

“This work is ongoing and we will continue to keep our partners and the local community updated.”

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