Mixed reaction as Wolverhampton surgery set to stay open but with reduced hours
Residents who fought to save a GP surgery in Wolverhampton have given a mixed reaction to the decision to spare it from the axe.
Wood Road practice will now see reduced hours put in place from next year, after Tettenhall Medical Practice scrapped plans to axe it.
Bosses at Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) later approved plans for the cuts, due to a shortage of GPs at the surgery in Tettenhall.
Currently, GPs are carrying out seven sessions a week – each lasting half a day – but the proposals will see this chopped to four.
Campaigners gathered at Christ Church in Tettenhall to hear the news – with some praising the decision to keep it open, and others criticising the plan to cut the hours. Anja, from the Save Wood Road Surgery group, said: “We’re happy there will still be a presence, but we feel there’s not enough appointments at the moment – it will be really hard.
“How are they going to decide who gets what appointment?
“But our main concern is going to be trying to keep it open for longer and support the surgery in its recruitment.
“The area does need it – it’s growing and there’s a lot of elderly people here.”
A total of 1,312 people responded to an online questionnaire over the initial plans for the closure, with 974 people – or roughly 74 per cent – objecting.
Seven consultation events took place with a total of 327 people attending them. A petition against the closure was also signed by almost 1,000 people online, with a paper petition hitting around 2,000.
William Duckett, who lives near to the surgery, said the decision was “ridiculous”.
The 83-year-old said: “If it got closed I wouldn’t have been able to get to Lower Green surgery.
“With the reduction of opening hours you don’t know how long it will take to get an appointment.
“It’s much better than if it was closing, but there’s still a struggle there.”
Eleanor Smith, parliamentary candidate for Wolverhampton South West, said campaigners had done a “fantastic job” at helping to keep the practice open. "Great work has been done to save the Wood Road surgery – it’s been magnificent.
“A lot of people were saying it’s a done deal and it wasn’t – they have listened to your voices. We’ve got to reduce but that can still grow. We need more GPs – we can’t let it stay as it is. We do not want to compromise the service.”
Robert Billing, who lives in Tettenhall Wood, said the move was “better than closing it”.
The 72-year-old said: “As long as they keep it open and have a view at lengthening it to a full service, it’s fine.
“It’s better than nothing and I’m glad because the people were able to get something and it’s nice to have Eleanor Smith backing us as well.”
Stuart Anderson, parliamentary candidate for Wolverhampton South West, said he welcomed the CCG’s decision.
Councillor criticises cut in hours
Meanwhile Councillor Milkinder Jaspal, who sits on the city council's Health Scrutiny Board, branded the changes to the surgery's hours as "nonsense".
The cuts were made due to a shortage of GPs.
Councillor Jaspal said the overheads of the practice, highlighted as one of the reasons the surgery was at risk, had not changed and there was only going to be a drop in service for patients from the decision.
Now the former mayor of Wolverhampton has called for the healthcare body to act to encourage the 4,000 patients at the site, run by Tettenhall Medical Centre, to be handed over to another provider – or risk the same situation happening again.
He said: “I think the reduction of sessions at Wood Road are a lot of nonsense.
“They said the overheads of the building meant they had to move to the Lower Green site, that’s when they were doing the full number of sessions.
“The overheads are not going to be reduced so what’s the point unless they move to another building? My view is the Wood Road patients should be given to another provider.
"I think they should be handed over and the patients there should be encouraged to transfer. In the long term it’s more feasible because we will be back discussing this in two years’ time.
"It’s all about the money for Tettenhall Medical Practice – not about the delivery of service and I really feel the patients deserve a good service from their local GPs.”
Councillor Jaspal said the CCG had the power to transfer the patients – as they did at the Parkfield Medical Centre and said it “can be done”.
Dr Samaiya Shafi, from Tettenhall Medical Practice, said at a meeting on Tuesday that patients would continue to have access to a “high-quality” service in a safe environment.