A number of constituents have written, emailed and telephoned me about the planned changes to the medical practice based in Overton and Oakley. People in Oakley who have had a first class service in the village are understandably concerned that they may have to travel more frequently to Overton and, for those without transport, this is clearly a problem. I understand that the reasons behind the changes are problems with resignations, and with staffing at the Oakley practice. I am in touch with the Practice to see if I have a role to play in helping to tackle these difficulties, and thereby maintain access to a first class primary care service in Oakley. With the Government constantly claiming that the NHS is getting better, people in Oakley find it difficult to accept that this change is necessary.
I got a reply from Dr Richard Coppin, which set out the reasons behind the changes. I have also discussed the matter with him at some length, and told him how very disappointed my constituents in Oakley were at the decision that has been taken and at the absence of consultation with them.
I asked him whether the decision was irrevocable; he made it clear that, in the short term, there was no going back. But, if the position changed in the future, he said that he would review the situation in Oakley. He also told me that he was determined that there should be no loss of quality of care as a result of what has happened and I believe the practice genuinely wants to look after those on the list; and that there is no hidden agenda to close Oakley.
It was clear from my discussion with Dr Coppin that the decision had been taken, and there was nothing which I could do to alter that. I offered to intervene on behalf of the Practice with the Primary Care Trust, but I was told that the issue was not a financial one – and the reasons for the decision, Dr Coppin explained, were more to do with human resources and the changing pattern of the way primary care is delivered.
I know how disappointed my constituents will be, and I understand that there is a public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) at the St Leonards Centre. I plan to attend the first half hour, before honouring an existing commitment in Kingsclere.
I am sure the meeting will be a constructive one; at the end of the day, the GP's and their patients will want to have a good relationship with each other.