Closure of Wenlock Surgery in Luton was not a cost saving exercise says health boss

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Dr Saleh resigned following a Care Quality Commission inspection in June

The sudden closure of a doctor’s surgery in Luton had “nothing to do” with making savings, a meeting heard.

Patients protested outside Wenlock Surgery in High Town, after the BLMK integrated care board (ICB) announced it was to close.

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The sole GP partner Dr Saleh resigned his contract to deliver primary medical services at the practice, following a Care Quality Commission inspection in June.

Outside Wenlock Surgery in Hightown. (Picture: Google Maps)Outside Wenlock Surgery in Hightown. (Picture: Google Maps)
Outside Wenlock Surgery in Hightown. (Picture: Google Maps)

Labour High Town councillor Umme Ali raised the issue at a meeting of the borough council’s scrutiny health and social care review group by referring to nearly “3,500 local people disseminated to other surgeries” around Luton.

“Realistically they’ll impact on the (primary care) numbers as we’ve not magicked up a new GP from elsewhere,” she warned.

“What’s happening about this more long-term?” she asked. “I know it’s not set in stone yet and there are several things occurring, but I have to mention this for our residents.

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“It’s not only going to affect people in High Town. This will spread to practices in other areas of Luton where patients have been sent to an alternative GP surgery.”

BLMK ICB chief primary care officer Nicky Poulain replied: “Wenlock Surgery closed on Friday (July 28) so there were 3,300 patients reassigned to seven practices in Luton. It was quite quick.

“The resignation came in and we’ve had to work with some speed. The resource at Wenlock will move to those practices, so there’s the opportunity for primary care networks to recruit. It’s certainly not a cost saving exercise in any way.

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Patients protest outside Luton GP surgery after closure announced

“You’re right to say that workforce is reduced. It’s a confidential matter as they’re private businesses, but we’ve assisted any staff wanting to move to other practices.

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“That’s the point of profiling our workforce, so we know a number of older people are near to retirement age.

“In Luton, we’ve more practices engaging in training and development of the workforce. Of the six primary care networks in the town, four or possibly five have participated in that training process.

“All the evidence suggests if you learn somewhere you’re more likely to stay there. So that’s a positive, as we’ve a number of GP practices which are qualified trainers.”

Councillor Ali added: “Basically it’s extra staff and how we approach this in the short-term, getting locum GPs in or whatever is needed to reassure people they won’t be waiting even longer because of what’s happened. I know we’re training for the longer-term already.”

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Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor Richard Underwood, who chairs the review group, wondered how the transfer of staff elsewhere from Wenlock is progressing, asking: “Are the other surgeries coping with the increased demand?”

Ms Poulain explained: “It’s a very small surgery and where staff wanted to (move) they’ve been supported.

“As it was a resignation of a contract the arrangements are slightly different. The ICB isn’t at liberty (to say). But we’d be rather stupid not to support staff who want to continue.

“And that’s not me, it’s the local practices in Luton which have opened their arms to people wanting to work.”

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