A number of health services are being reinstated next week at a surgery which was controversially closed – but with less than a week to go before the site reopens, there are still key questions that need to be answered.
The communities in the Coquet Valley and Upper Rede Valley were rocked in August when NHS England made the shock announcement that Harbottle Surgery would be shutting at the end of that month.
NHS England said it was forced to act after Dr Rina Miah took the sudden decision not to continue with her contract and was unable to provide GP cover for the surgery.
The news, which also affected the site’s satellite clinics at Rothbury Community Hospital and Otterburn Village Hall, sparked anger.
Campaigners scored a slight victory at the end of September when NHS England announced that The Rothbury Practice will provide some GP and nursing services from Harbottle – a move which will come into effect next week.
However, objectors say this falls short of what was previously on offer. And NHS England has still NOT confirmed whether there will be a dispensing service from the site and could not clarify, at this stage, whether the same GP or nurse will be at Harbottle each time to provide continuity of care.
Dr Craig Melrose, medical director for NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: “We are pleased to confirm that from Monday, a GP and a practice nurse from The Rothbury Practice will be available to see patients on a Tuesday and Thursday morning at the Harbottle Surgery premises.
“Patients who wish to access appointments at Harbottle will need to live within The Rothbury Practice catchment area and register with the main surgery.
“Appointments at Harbottle must be booked in advance by calling 01669 620339. Patients cannot be seen on a drop-in basis. Arrangements have been made for the small number of patients in Upper Coquetdale to access the same services. We’d like to reassure patients that we are continuing discussions to try to arrange a dispensing service out of Harbottle.”
An NHS England spokeswoman told the Gazette that The Rothbury Practice is confident that it can manage the demand from extra patients, but she said there was not yet information on whether additional staff will be taken on.
Those not living in The Rothbury Practice catchment area or the Upper Coquetdale area, where separate arrangements have been made, need to register with an alternative practice.
The new service will be for an initial 12-month period, allowing consultation on longer-term options.