Some GP services to return to Northumberland village surgery

Harbottle Surgery.
Harbottle Surgery.

A village surgery which was controversially closed at the end of August is to reopen with the return of some GP and nursing services.

Emotions have been running high in Coquetdale and Upper Rede Valley after NHS England announced Harbottle Surgery was shutting its doors ‘in the interest of public safety’.

Protesters at a public meeting which was held at the start of September, following the closure of Harbottle Surgery in August.

Protesters at a public meeting which was held at the start of September, following the closure of Harbottle Surgery in August.

NHS England said the decision, which also affected its satellite clinics at Rothbury Community Hospital and Otterburn Village Hall, was taken after Dr Rina Miah took the sudden decision not to continue her contract and was unable to provide GP cover for the surgery.

But now, an agreement has now been secured with The Rothbury Practice which, from October 19, will provide some GP and nursing services from the Harbottle premises.

Harbottle will operate as a branch surgery of The Rothbury Practice, so all patients wishing to access appointments will need to live in The Rothbury Practice catchment area and register with the main surgery.

Two half-day GP sessions and two half-day nurse sessions per week will operate from the Harbottle premises, which NHS England says is similar to the previous sessions available to patients there.

Registration with The Rothbury Practice means patients can access appointments at Rothbury five days a week and late-night appointments until 7.30pm every third Thursday. The main surgery at Rothbury also offers a range of clinics and health assessments.

Patients who do not live within The Rothbury Practice catchment area will need to register with an alternative practice, such as Bellingham. Arrangements have been made for patients who live in the Upper Coquetdale area, who do not live within any other practice boundaries, to register with Rothbury.

The new service will be for an initial period of 12 months, allowing NHS England and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group to carry out a detailed assessment of local primary-care needs and to consult more widely on longer-term options.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “Following the closure of Harbottle GP surgery on August 28, when Dr Miah handed back her contract, NHS England Cumbria and the North East has been in urgent negotiations with a neighbouring practice to provide some services back in the village.

“NHS England’s main priority has always been to ensure patients continue to have access to high quality GP services and an agreement has now been secured with The Rothbury Practice which, from October 19, will provide some GP and nursing services from the Harbottle premises.”

Dr Craig Melrose, medical director for NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: “We are delighted the people of Harbottle will be able to access services provided by such a well-established practice. Not only will they be able to attend local appointments in Harbottle village, but they will also have the backing and wider services available from the practice’s main surgery in Rothbury.

“NHS England is very pleased to have successfully secured access and continuity for primary-care services in Harbottle.

“We will be writing to all patients with details about which services can be accessed and when, with a reminder to register with The Rothbury Practice to ensure they can make appointments at the branch surgery in Harbottle.”

The closure of Harbottle Surgery caused much community concern and at a packed public meeting at Clennell Hall Farm at the start of September, residents pleaded with health chiefs to give it another chance.

The Gazette also reported that opponents were considering launching a judicial review in a bid to save the site from permanent closure and the decision-makers were accused of breaching the Data Protection Act, with claims that patients’ medical files have been transferred without their consent.