Park Ward councillor John Peach is starting a campaign group to stop the closure of the Alma Road Primary Care Centre in Millfield. The newly built facility is well attended, but NHS Peterborough is engaged in a cost cutting exercise to address the budget shortfall they face this year, following the departure of Chairman Marco Cereste. The Alma Road process is out to consultation but there are concerns that NHS Peterborough is not doing enough to publicize the meetings, Cllr Peach talks to Andy Gall from the BBC, and Andy then interviews Paul Whiteside Director of Strategic Change at NHS Peterborough. Broadcast at 08:33 on Tuesday 24th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
AG: The debate continues over the future of the Alma Road Care Centre. NHS Peterborough have begun a consultation over its closure. But yesterday local residents got together to form a campaign group to keep the year old surgery open. And we should be able to speak first to Councillor John Peach who joins us in the studio.
JP: Good morning.
AG: Good morning Councillor. So how did the meeting go?
JP: Well very successful really. I think that the meeting is just to make people aware that there are a couple of consultation meetings going on, which the NHS PCT Trust have got to put on if they consult over the possible closure of the Surgery, and we really want to make people aware of these meetings, because it appears that the NHS PCT Trust aren’t advertising them very widely. And of course there are other surgeries that have either closed or, we hear, are possibly going to close.
AG: So Councillor why is this in danger of closing? Because it hasn’t really .. it’s only been built for a short period of time, hasn’t it? It’s not been with us long.
JP: No. I can’t understand it. It’s a superb facility. It’s only been open eighteen months. It’s in an area which is quite a deprived area of town. It is well used. It’s got marvellous car parking facilities. It’s actually open from seven am till ten pm every day three hundred and sixty five days a year. And it is manned by doctors, where the other walk in service is only manned by nurses. It’s a superb facility, which Peterborough ought to be proud of, and keep.
AG: So why aren’t people registering to go there?
JP: Well I think they are. But I think at one time the PCT NHS Trust were discouraging the doctors from taking on too many patients. But I’d certainly recommend if anyone is looking for a doctors’ surgery to register there. And indeed since people have got to know about it, largely through our own publicity, the registrations have gone up massively.
AG: We’re being told John that only seven hundred and thirty six people have registered for it.
JP: No I think there’s well over eight hundred now, and there’s been about another hundred or over a hundred people join every month since this publicity started.
AG: But what was its expectations when it was built?
JP: I think by next May, that’s May twenty eleven, they wanted to be up to somewhere near the two thousand figure, which I think they’re on target to do.
AG: Right. Well NHS Peterborough say that if you want to keep it, they want to hear other options. Were there any suggestions from last night as to other ways to use this facility?
JP: Well I keep hearing that there’s other surgeries possibly closing. The latest I’ve heard is one in the Parnwell area. The NHS PCT Trust have already closed one in Sergeant Street which is quite near the Alma Road. And it might be that the doctors and the managers at Alma Road could work with other surgeries and see if there’s any possibility of doctors from other surgeries using those facilities, or slight amalgamation in some way. Obviously that’s up to them.
JP: This lunchtime, isn’t there a consultation?
JP: That’s right. I do want to impress on your listeners that there’s two consultation meetings coming up. They don’t seem to be advertised widely. But the first is today at one o’clock, and that’s in the Conference Room at the City Care Centre in Thorpe Road. And that’s a building, if you go past the main District Hospital out of town along Thorpe Road, it’s about a hundred yards further out from the Hospital on the right.
AG: So you must be encouraging this then John, because you want to get more footfall to this facility?
JP: Well we want to make these consultation meetings so the public know about them. So at least they can come and have their say. If they want to close it they can come. If they feel it should stay open they can come. But we feel it’s our public duty to let people know that these meetings are on. So please get along, either today, at one o’clock, to the Conference Room at the City Care Centre Thorpe Road, or on the twenty first of September at ten am in the reception Room at the Town hall.
AG: What day? Are these both weekdays?
JP: These are both weekdays. They’re both at very inconvenient times. And we just wonder why they are on weekdays, during the day, when people are working. Strange, isn’t it?
AG: Well John. Thank you for talking to us. And we’re going to put these questions to our next guest. But that’s Councillor John Peach, who’s the councillor for Park Ward. We’re going to speak now to Paul Whiteside who’s Director for Strategic Change for NHS Peterborough. Good morning Paul.
PW: Good morning.
AG: Now John just spoke to us eloquently enough and said that he got the impression that this consultation period is a bit of a lipservice.
PW: Absolutely not. This consultation is being done on exactly the same basis as all other consultations, so it’s the same amount of publicity. In fact this has generated a lot of publicity.
AG: But on a weekday though, and in the middle of the day, it’s not that convenient. is it?
PW: Well we’ve done two public meetings. So in some consultations they only do one public meeting. And we’ve done one in August and one in September, at different times, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. And we’re also having a market event in the evening for all those who are likely to be more directly affected. So we’ve tried our best to have a range of different times that people can come and give their views. And just to be absolutely clear, we want people to come, and we want their views. And there’s been no .. you know we have been trying to publicise this in exactly the same way as we do for all consultations.
AG: So Paul, as it stands at the moment, wwhat are the plans that you have, that NHS Peterborough have, for the Surgery?
PW: So, yes, the plans that we have, we’ve put into our consultation document, in the sense that we’ve tried to be clear on our recommendations. Because I think there is a key issue here. the issue, as you know, is that we’ve got a major financial problem in Peterborough for health services. And we’ve got to do something about it. We would like to keep everything open, but we have to address the problem.
AG: So what’s your plans for it as it stand now? What was your plan?
PW: The plan at the moment or rather the recommendation, for the consultation, is to close this surgery, which should result in roughly eight hundred thousand pounds savings per year, unless there is a better option that comes forward. And the reason we’re putting this forward, as opposed to any other option at the moment, is that there are eleven other GP practices within one mile of this facility. So we know that there are .. there’s a very high density of similar services.
AG: Paul, this issue that you’re mentioning now being the rub with the whoile philosophy, how did it get commissioned in the first place then?
PW: Well I think, you know, as I’ve said before, I think the circumstances were very different. It was a Government policy roughly two years ago, that every PCT had to have a brand new walk in centre, and what then made sense was to put one in an area of deprivation, which resulted in the Alma Road site.
AG: We’ve been told Paul that eight hundred, over eight hundred people have already registered for this care centre. What happens to them then? What figure would you like to see? Is there a figure that you’ve got in your head that says actually that works economically and socially? That’s a good figure and we’ll keep it open.
PW: Well I think our recommendation is actually based on a number of factors of why we don’t think this makes sense. The low registered list size is only one of them. Most GP practices have about three or four thousand list size. You know each GP has roughly just under two thousand patients. But that doesn’t quite apply at Alma Road, because Alma Road is providing services for registered and unregistered patients.
AG: Paul, would you keep the surgery open if there was a strong enough desire in the community, if they got up to say two thousand registered people for the Care Centre, would you keep it open?
PW: Well what we would do is take all the views, and all the facts, at the end of the consultation, and take it back to our Board. But we certainly can’t prejudge it by kind of putting an arbitrary well if it got to two thousand if it got to this. But what I can say is we are open to seeing what other options come forward. Councillor Peach mentioned there’s other dynamics in the GP community. And although we’ve got seven hundred and thirty six patients registered according to the official record, that may have grown to eight hundred as Councillor Peach just said. So we’ll make a judgment, but only once we’ve got all the facts in at the end of the consultation.
AG: OK. That’s interesting to talk to you both. Thank you very much Paul Whiteside Director of Strategic Change for NHS Peterborough and also Councillor John Peach, who’s a councillor for Park Ward.