• Local health services struggle to cope with development

    5th February 2014 | News | Claire
  • Health chiefs have warned that the current population of East Devon “replicates what the average population of England would look like in 2075” and is putting a strain on the district’s health provision.

    The comments were made at last week’s meeting of East Devon District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee by Tamara Powderley, head of commissioning for the Eastern Locality of Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

    Ms Powderley was speaking to councillors about the development of healthcare services in East Devon and urged planning officers to meet with GPs to further address the issue.

    As part of the district council’s Local Plan, which is due to go before a Government inspector this month, 15,000 homes are planned between 2006 and 2026.

    Concerns were also expressed at the meeting by councillors about the impact rapid growth of the new town of Cranbrook is having on local GP surgeries.

    In total, 6,000 houses are planned over a 20 year period.

    There are plans for a surgery at Cranbrook but when this will happen is subject to on-going discussions.

    A spokesperson for the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point team confirmed that there are an estimated 1,200 people occupying the 550 houses which have already been built in the town.

    Andy Potter, practice manager of the nearby Pinhoe and Broadclyst surgeries, confirmed that around half the current population of Cranbrook – around 600 residents – are currently registered with them.

    He said the practice has had to draft in extra locums to cover the surge in demand over the last 12 months which goes up by the day.

    Mr Potter described the practice as “just managing” to cope with the extra patients and has called for the establishment of the Cranbrook surgery “as soon as possible” adding that the future is one of “trepidation”.

    While the Clinical Commissioning Group is responsible for commissioning most healthcare services, including acute and community hospitals, NHS England commission primary care services, including GP practices.

    Ms Powderley told councillors and officers: “If you could just give our doctors the opportunity to talk to you and let the planning officers know their thoughts, we would make the time.”

    She added: “The demography in East Devon poses us a challenge in that the current population replicates what the average population of England would look like in 2075.”

    Mr Potter said the practices, which are closest to Cranbrook and is where the majority of residents register, started to notice the growth in patients from the new town in January 2013 and had to increase man power accordingly with locum doctors costing around £215 for a morning or afternoon session.

    “Our understanding is that a GP surgery at Cranbrook would be established sooner than this,” he added.

    “It’s still our hope it will be in place soon.

    “The biggest problem we have is not being able to plan ahead in terms of staffing and other space and all the other things that are required to keep a practice going.

    “We could lose hundreds of patients over night.

    “We’re just about coping with patients we have at the moment.

    “We view the near future with trepidation – we’re concerned because we want to be able to continue to provide an excellent service for our patients.”