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Patients face long wait for new surgery

PUBLISHED: 11:08 08 October 2001 | UPDATED: 10:37 03 March 2010

PATIENTS in Stowmarket who are already waiting up to a week to see a GP, have been told they could wait eight years for a new surgery.

Residents angered by overcrowding at the Combs Ford Surgery in the town where more development is looming, found the news hard medicine to swallow when they heard at a public meeting that health bosses were alerted to the need for extra practices as long ago as 1995.

PATIENTS in Stowmarket who are already waiting up to a week to see a GP, have been told they could wait eight years for a new surgery.

Residents angered by overcrowding at the Combs Ford Surgery in the town where more development is looming, found the news hard medicine to swallow when they heard at a public meeting that health bosses were alerted to the need for extra practices as long ago as 1995.

At a public meeting of the Combs Ford Surgery Patients Group on Friday, Dr David Campbell, one of the area's GPs, revealed that he had told Suffolk Health Authority of his worries over expanding patient numbers six years ago but they hadn't taken any notice.

"We're scurrying around like scared rats. We shouldn't be in this situation because the health authority should've planned ahead. And they didn't."

Stowmarket faces increasing pressure on its health services with more than 1200 extra houses planned for the north east of the town.

More than 60 patients gathered in the Hillside Community Centre heard that the Combs Ford surgery is "fit to bursting" but Mid Suffolk planning boss Stephen Andrews told them that the earliest a new doctor's surgery could be accommodated in the development scheme by housebuilders Crest Nicholson would be "five to eight years down the road".

Nobody from Suffolk Health was present at the meeting as it was revealed that a pharmacy licence for the Cedar's Park estate was sold to Tesco's by a consortium of Needham Market doctors after they pulled out of plans to create a health care centre for the area.

However Janice Steed, the chief executive of Suffolk Central Primary Care Group, a sub-committee reporting to the health authority, was there to field a barrage of angry questions.

Admitting the PCG had only been existence for two years, she said that "no existing regulations were contravened" by the deal.

She said that an interim solution to the crisis is due to be hammered out by December but she pointed to "short, medium and long term" packages that could relieve the pressure of patient numbers.

Plans being discussed in the mean time include a mobile surgery, expansion of the practice on Violet Hill, establishing a surgery on land owned by Tesco's near the superstore or the health authority stepping in with salaried medical staff under new powers the PCG would hold if it was to become a Primary Care Trust.

It also emerged that Mid Suffolk District Council had not informed the Health Authority of the possible influx of 5,000 more residents moving into the area under its Strategic Development area plans.

David Ruffley, the Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket, who helped chair the panel on the spot, said that this fact was "appalling".

After the meeting he told the Star: "It was a very constructive meeting and we now have a pledge from the health authority to give us a short term solution by December without fail. I will be making sure they do."

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