Having spoken with many Cranbrook residents over the past week or so, who tell me they’re concerned about inconsistent access to their local GP service, which operates from the Younghayes Centre, I contacted Access Healthcare, which runs the service.

They confirmed the following:

  • Access Healthcare has given notice on its contract which will cease on 31 March 2020
  • The reason is because the premises are unsuitable and cannot cater for the increasing numbers of patients that will need to register in the town. Currently around 3500 of the 6500 residents at Cranbrook are registered
  • There is a lack of government funding per patient to run an effective GP service
  • Access Healthcare cannot recruit the necessary GPs and nurses to provide the service required
  • The CCG has been working on potential solutions

Anxious that Cranbrook residents could be left without a GP service I have emailed Sonja Manton, strategic director with Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, asking for assurances that a new GP service is being actively sourced and will be provided as of 1 April.

This is her response:

“Our priority is to ensure all patients of Cranbrook Medical Centre have ongoing access to local GP services. 

“We are progressing a number of options and are committed to finding the right solution for Cranbrook, which includes continuing use of the current building.  We are working closely with the town council and Cranbrook Strategic Board.

“All services continue at Cranbrook Medical Centre and patients should attend appointments as normal. We wrote to patients in September about this and will keep them up to date with developments.”

Unfortunately, this picture is all too common, thanks to a decade of underfunding by the Conservative government. There are not enough GPs, or healthcare workers across the spectrum.  GPs in particular are leaving, emigrating or retiring as a result of intolerable workloads and stress.

There are significant vacancies as a result.

The funding per head available to GPs, simply hasn’t kept pace with the people’s needs and is inadequate.

The government claims it is fully funding the NHS, but the reality is that it has forced NHS trusts to make billions of pounds worth of efficiency savings over many years.

Devon Clinical Commissioning Group launched a consultation back in the summer saying that it would need to scale back provision because it couldn’t afford to provide all the services it currently provides.

As of the end of this financial year it is set to be around £66m in the red.

Government ministers should hang their heads in shame.