A doctors surgery in East Peckham has been thrown a lifeline by NHS England, following a lengthy campaign from villagers.
Plans for it to be merged with Woodlands Health Centre in Paddock Wood have been temporarily shelved after 200 objections were submitted.
Kent’s NHS England boss David Selling has indicated that the final decision on ths clinic will be postponed for six months.
This will enable East Peckham Parish Council to seek funding in order to enable the lease to be renewed.
But time is ticking for the East Peckham surgery to be permanently saved, as the authorities have set a date of 12th March for any response to be made.
Selling wrote that “it is with reluctance we find ourselves in the position, as it formally stands today, that we would have little option but to accept the application to close as I understand there are no other alternative sites that the practice can identify.”
But although the executive indicated that the situation does not necessarily look bright for the surgery, he did offer it something of a stay of execution.
“However, we note the letter of January 7 2016 from the East Peckham Parish Council potentially offering to support the Practice with the funding of improvements to get the premises into a condition whereby a new lease could be offered. Thus, NHS England would like you to delay the process of closure for up to 6 months to enable you to approach your landlord for an extension on your lease notice and to give you the opportunity to explore any other potential opportunities for funding which might provide a future for the current site.”
But Selling also indicated that “NHS Commissioners do not have any additional funding to support this remedial work” and urged the surgery to “come to an arrangement between yourselves, the parish council and the landlord.”
A petition opposing the plan garnered 100 signatures in just four hours.
And the parish council has broadly supported the feelings of local people.
“We had the notification on December 4 and we have been talking to Tom Tugenhdhat and Baroness Emerton, we have just heard a decision from NHS England is imminent. We found out that the campaign to save West Kingsdown’s surgery had been successful which was a boost,” stated Karen Ball, clerk of East Peckham Parish Council.
Ball also outlined precisely why feelings are so strong.
“We estimated that for someone on the outside of the village it would take two-and-a-half hours on public transport – you would need to take two buses. We are an ageing community and these people are ill, otherwise they wouldn’t be going to the doctors. There will be more home visits and more people going to A&E.”
Critics of the Conservatives’ NHS policy will point to this situation as indicative of the extent to which rural communities are hung out to dry by unfeeling bureaucrats.