While redevelopment would offer new, modern facilities for the Practice on the Blackmore site, the negatives are: reduced parking available to the practice and patients; and lack of future development space on the site to meet future increase in health care needs of the local population.
NHSPS plan to pay for the development by adding residential flats and a pharmacy. Their plans are to add another floor and are suggesting 10 flats on site – which would come with the requirement for resident and visitor parking. Addition of the flats will mean the removal of future opportunity for growth of the health centre.
Rent for the Blackmore site was £44381.80 last year – next year they wish to increase the rent to £66550. This is at a time where no work has been undertaken since the CQC report in 2015 and the state of the property continues to deteriorate. Similar increases are being seen in service charges. Costs, which had previously been landlord responsibility are being passed onto the practice. New management charges have been created, which were never a feature under the previous Primary Care Trust landlord.
Dr. Joe Stych said, “We really want to buy the site so we are in control of what happens there but have been refused. NHSPS’s main interest seems to be making a profit from the site rather than improving the facility for patients and the NHS. We have tried very hard to keep things amicable and foster good working relationships with NHSPS, but enough is enough. We would not want to move from Blackmore – it is a great convenient location for patients. However working alongside NHSPS seems impractical. If we could find another central location with potential it may be that a move is needed.”
Di Fuller, Chair of Sid Valley Patient Participation Group (PPG) said, “The public feel very strongly that they want to retain the Blackmore site in some form. There are constant queries raised with PPG about this and the security of the facility in town. Many patients would wish to see more provision there, certainly not less. If the Practice were to move from Blackmore to another town centre site, it would give NHSPS what they want: the opportunity to fully develop that site. However the PPG would support any strategy to retain a town centre surgery.”
The Sid Valley Practice want to continue to operate from Blackmore. Running the practice solely from the Beacon is not an option as it is too small and many patients find access to that side of town difficult and costly. The Beacon Medical Centre was built with the assumption that the Practice would always have a town based health centre as well. Currently not all of the space is in use at Blackmore. Requirements based upon management assumptions and extrapolating from past patient needs data, suggests that at least the amount of available space in Blackmore now, will be needed within 10 years and that is without additional population growth.
NHSPS are making the running of Blackmore a financial risk for the practice. Their facilities and finance have failed to resolve issues on rent and service charges over a 2 year period despite constant pressure. The company is not being run to optimise healthcare facilities for patients nor for healthcare workers to deliver best practice.
Di Fuller said, “The PPG has invited Hugo Swire to visit the Blackmore health centre to meet with GPs and patients to examine the issues and support the Practice. What we also need is for the Sidmouth Community to get behind the Practice and put pressure on NHSPS to sell the Blackmore site to the Practice, or to provide adequate updated accommodation to meet the growing primary care needs of Sidmouth.
We can do this by:
• writing to Hugo Swire to point out that the strategy for using NHSPS to manage NHS property is not serving the needs of the patients of Sidmouth and to ask him to intervene on our behalf
• writing to the Sidmouth Herald to express support
• signing the petition that will be available in the next couple of weeks
• support an on-going Save Our Surgery Campaign
NHSPS is a privately owned business wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. It was set up in 2013 to manage 3500+ NHS properties. This followed the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which was passed under the radar of the general public and greatly expanded the role private companies can play in providing health care in the UK.