No answers on GP surgery as councillors grill NHS bosses

Enterprise Hub in Wick. Picture: Steve Robards SUS-161221-104300001
Enterprise Hub in Wick. Picture: Steve Robards SUS-161221-104300001

NHS bosses faced a grilling from councillors about stalled GP surgery plans as Littlehampton’s MP branded the situation ‘unacceptable’.

At the cabinet meeting of Arun District Council on Monday night, members of the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) gave an update on plans to turn the Enterprise Hub next to Morrisons in Wick into a GP surgery.

We can deliver something here that will bring benefit to people. If that means knocking on Jeremy Hunt’s door that is fine by me

Kieran Stigant, chairman of Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group

Fitzalan Medical Group, which has two surgeries in Littlehampton, and Westcourt Medical Centre in The Street, Rustington, were to run the practice – but plans to sign the lease have stalled.

Kieran Stigant, chairman of the group, and Neil Cook, interim finance director, could not provide a timeframe for the surgery’s construction, despite repeated calls from councillors.

Councillor Paul Dendle said the CCG was surrounded by ‘bureaucratic fog’ and his colleague Dr James Walsh believed the update was full of ‘promises, but not a single brick’.

Mr Stigant said the Morrisons site was the best chance of delivering a new surgery – after Arun’s chief executive Nigel Lynn warned that a plan B would take ‘years and years to deliver’.

Councillor Mike Northeast said Arun was prepared to sign the head lease, but NHS England was reluctant for the CCG to sign the sub-lease, which was causing the delay.

He called for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to ensure the lease was signed, to the agreement of all parties.

Mr Stigant said: “We can deliver something here that will bring benefit to people. If that means knocking on Jeremy Hunt’s door that is fine by me.”

The CCG agreed to work more closely with Arun to get the surgery built.

This comes after MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton Nick Gibb met with GPs from the two surgeries to get a resolution on the lease issue.

He said: “It is important, with an increasing population, that the local area has sufficient GP practices.

“It should not be taking so long to arrange what ought be a straight-forward process.

“It is unacceptable that technical issues regarding leases should be putting primary health care and GP practices in the local area in jeopardy.”

A CCG spokesman said: “We appreciate the concerns and frustrations in Littlehampton and the surrounding area. There is unprecedented demand on GPs across the Coastal area just as there is up and down the country. We are working with our GPs to look at ways we can provide support as a CCG because our overriding priority is to ensure that our communities can access high quality health care in the right place at the right time.

“It was important that we attended Arun District Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday night to update the district council about the areas of progress we have made, and the areas where more work is still needed.

“We welcome the support of councillors and Mr Gibb in providing assistance. We are committed to working together because some of these issues are simply not within our gift to solve alone and require regional and national support, including the lease arrangements.

“However, we are focussed on working with local GP practices and Arun District Council on the Morrisons site and are committed to finding a solution that enables health care services to be provided from the site.”

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