THE sudden closure of a Runcorn GP practice has alarmed Halton’s health watchdog.
Healthwatch Halton has expressed its concern over the closure of Windmill Hill Medical Centre on March 31.
Health chiefs say they have been forced to permanently close the surgery because a contract with GP service provider Liverpool Community Health expires at the end of the month and they can’t find anyone to take over.
Almost 2,000 patients should have received letters notifying them of the closure and advising them of arrangements being made to move them to an alternative practice.
The consumer champion for health and social care in Runcorn and Widnes wants to hear from any patients experiencing problems as a result of a decision to shut the surgery.
Healthwatch Halton manager Matthew Roberts said: “This closure may cause inconvenience and difficulties for patients from Windmill Hill.
“One of our main concerns is the general capacity of the NHS locally to absorb any more closures and disruption.”
“The closest practices to Windmill Hill are already under strain trying to cover their existing patients without having to accommodate another 2000 patients.
“We regularly hear the experiences of local people about difficulties and delays in securing GP appointments at both practices. We wonder just how close we are to reaching a tipping point where the system will not be able to cope.”
He said proposals in the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Cheshire and Merseyside rely on more diagnosis and treatment being provided by local GPs.
“But we are seeing a system that struggles to meet current demand and seems ill equipped to meet increasing demand in the future,” said Mr Roberts.
“We are extremely pleased to see that NHS Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England have acted promptly to arrange drop-in sessions to enable patients to discuss their concerns directly.
“We would encourage patients who are affected to use this opportunity to have their say.”
Drop in sessions are being held at the Windmill Hill surgery tomorrow, Tuesday, from 10am to 3pm and 4pm to 7pm.
Mr Roberts added: “Healthwatch Halton would be delighted to work closely with the NHS locally to ensure that those people affected can get advice on any immediate problems they have accessing GP services and are advised how to re-register with another practice.”
Healthwatch Halton is keen to provide evidence to the NHS about people’s individual experiences of this closure.
Anyone facing difficulties or wishing to share their experiences can call 0300 777 6543 or visit an online patient feedback centre at http://bit.ly/windmillgp.