by adamboyden on 28 October, 2016
At the time of writing we still await a decision from NHS England on whether they will allow Frome Medical Practice to close Locks Hill surgery permanently. Of course the consultation on the closure should have been carried out earlier and for longer, and the NHS should have given approval before the lease ran out and Locks Hill shut its doors – mistakes were made (see the original consultation form here, news here, news of the closure here, objections from Fair Frome here, and calls to extend the consultation here).
However, FMP are confident that the quality of services for patients, including waiting times to see a GP, should improve as a result of having everyone at the main Health Centre.
But it is clear that Locks Hill surgery would still be open if the NHS were not under so much financial pressure, as FMP need to save money due to Government cuts to the GP contract as well a number of other losses of local funding, with the overall drive for £20 billion efficiency savings nationally and a lack of funding to modernise services. Somerset County Council is also under pressure on adult social care services due to Government cuts. Lib Dem MPs and others have argued for additional NHS funding, a cross party funding commission, and even a new NHS tax, to help turn things around.
But my immediate concern was, if the NHS allow it to close, how will people living closer to Locks Hill surgery get to the Health Centre if they do not have a car, and how will they park if they do, and I raised these with both FMP and NHS England.
Thanks to meetings with FMP, Fair Frome and Frome Town Council, I am pleased to see FMP agree to help improve travel options by agreeing to support the new Community Cars volunteer drivers scheme, and asking bus operators to re-route services. We may soon see a bus every half hour from The Mount via the town centre into the health centre and hospital, subject to sorting out a new bus stop, which I am helping with. FMP are also discussing arranging additional community health services at the Key Centre.
I was also worried that parking at the Health Centre and Hospital car parks would be more of a problem, and that there would then be calls for a parking company to start issuing tickets and fines (as there were earlier this year, when patients were missing appointments when unable to park at peak times), which would be bad. But I am pleased to see that a parking survey by the Patient Participation Group and Friends of Frome Community Hospital has identified the issues, and is leading to staff parking on site being managed better. The remaining problem is that some people are still parking here to go shopping in town or across the road, or walk their dogs, and they are taking up spaces that are needed by patients who need to see a doctor. So I need to ask everyone who may be thinking of parking here for any other reason than to visit the surgeries or hospital – PLEASE DON’T – please be considerate, as the signs say ‘This car park is for the benefit of patients only, please respect their needs’. I hope that additional signs can be added at the entrance to hammer the message home.
It would also probably help if Mendip District Council reduced the cost of parking at its town centre public car parks, as other LibDem councillors have argued before, so that commuters or shoppers are encouraged to use the public car parks rather than the Health Centre (or residential streets). I’ll be arguing the case again shortly.
I hope all this will help improve access to health services for everyone in Frome, whatever the decision on Locks Hill.
Adam Boyden, Mendip District Councillor, Frome College ward (Liberal Democrat)
Please see also the article in this week’s Frome Standard here, with more about the situation.1 Comment