Further consultation to come on future of GP services in village

Harbottle Surgery, which closed last August.
Harbottle Surgery, which closed last August.

New arrangements for GP services remain on track to be implemented later this year following the 2015 closure of a surgery in the Coquet Valley.

A report to today’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board on Harbottle Surgery states that interim arrangements will continue until October when it is anticipated a ‘service delivery proposal will be implemented’.

This will follow two periods of consultation with stakeholders, the first of which has already been completed.

The Harbottle Surgery saga began last August, when communities in the Coquet Valley and Upper Rede Valley were left in shock after NHS England dropped the bombshell news that the site was closing ‘in the interests of public safety’ at the end of that month.

NHS England claimed it was forced to wield the axe after Dr Rina Miah took the sudden decision not to continue with her contract and was unable to provide GP cover for the surgery.

In January, NHS England wrote to all ex-Harbottle registered patients to open an initial period of engagement for which the deadline was extended until March with 117 responses being received.

The results are currently being analysed by NHS England and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

As part of this, NHS England and the CCG met practice managers from Rothbury, Scots Gap and Bellingham to discuss how the transitional arrangements had progressed.

According to the report, ‘although there had been an initial period of frustration and some confusion, the practices had worked hard to mitigate this and general feedback showed that patients were generally very content with the services they were now receiving’.

A second period of consultation, which will discuss the findings of the initial survey and potential options in response, will start in May.

This will include an update letter to all ex-Harbottle patients, a series of drop-in sessions and the opportunity to comment on future service proposals.

Health sessions put in place

Last August’s announcement, which also affected the site’s satellite clinics at Rothbury Community Hospital and Otterburn Village Hall, prompted a massive public outcry and angry residents pleaded with health chiefs to give the surgery another chance and to reinstate a GP.

The Rothbury Practice was commissioned to provide services at Harbottle and currently provides four sessions per week (two GP, two nurse-led) on a Tuesday and Thursday morning, ‘although these sessions are not being fully utilised by patients who have now registered at Rothbury’.

Boots in Rothbury has been commissioned to provide a medicines collection service for patients at the site of the Harbottle GP surgery, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons between 3pm and 4pm, until October 15 this year.