Major GP surgery to close in March - displacing more than 4,000 patients
PUBLISHED: 16:27 05 February 2020 | UPDATED: 23:12 05 February 2020
A major GP surgery in Felixstowe which looks after 4,300 patients is set to close in less than two months.
It has been confirmed that Walton Surgery in High Street will close its doors to patients earlier than expected, on Tuesday, March 31.
This follows the decision by the Suffolk GP Federation, which currently provides primary care services at the surgery, to end its contract to run the practice.
The decision was mostly down to difficulties experienced in staffing the small surgery, bosses said.
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It was made against the backdrop of a national shortage of GPs and ongoing recruitment and retention challenges affecting the whole country, they added.
It also comes months after the practice was taken out of special measures.
The surgery had been warned it had six months to improve standards in March following a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report.
Felixstowe Mayor Nick Barber said: "It is disappointing, but the most important thing is that there is space at the three other surgeries for patients at the Walton Surgery.
"I'm pleased that there won't be any patients left without a doctor.
"I think this is part of a national problem. There aren't enough doctors and that comes down to retention levels and the number of new doctors that are training."
All of the 4,300 patients at the surgery are encouraged to move to one of three other GP surgeries in Felixstowe - Howard House, Haven Health and The Grove.
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Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning group said that all patients currently registered at Walton Surgery will receive a letter in due course advising them which alternative Felixstowe surgery they have been allocated, based on their postcode.
Patients can however choose to register with another Felixstowe surgery at any point.
Around 200 Walton patients who currently live outside Felixstowe will be directed to other surgeries closer to them.
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Ed Garratt, chief officer at the CCG, said: "I am delighted that the three other Felixstowe practices have offered to extend their services to the patients of Walton.
"Whilst I know that not everyone will be happy with these new arrangements, I wholeheartedly believe this is the safest and best option for patients given the situation we find ourselves in.
"I know that The Grove, Haven Health and Howard House will make Walton patients most welcome."
Andy Yacoub, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said: "This will naturally be very disappointing news for many people in the town and in particular the 4,000 or so patients associated with Walton Surgery.
"This is sadly also a reflection of the diminishing numbers of GPs we have in primary care, across Suffolk, and beyond.
"What is important - now there is no ambiguity - is that people are made aware of what this means for them, and that the process in offering patients other local options, is carried out effectively.
"Travel and transport are often key factors, especially for patients with no personal transport or those who are frail.
"As the change takes effect, we would encourage people to tell us if they find this change is impacting on them in a negative way, so we can share their feedback with the practices to support service planning."