Health chiefs say they have made no final decision over whether to close a doctor’s surgery in Sheffield, and that a full consultation will be held - after previously saying their ‘only realistic option’ was to shut the practice when its sole GP retires.
Staff at Westfield Health Centre, in Westfield, were told by NHS England that the surgery would have to close next month as it was unable to replace the retiring doctor, Dr Gurcharan Singh Chadha, or offer his contract to another practice.
But in a new letter sent to Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts and seen by The Star, Eleni de Gilbert, NHS England’s director for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, said ‘no decision has been taken around the final outcome’.
“This would not happen until consultation was complete,” said Ms de Gilbert.
Mr Betts - who has joined protesters in calling for a rethink - said: “If this is a climbdown then it is a welcome one. They’re not now saying it is a foregone conclusion that the practice will shut.
“However, what I’m concerned about now is that a consultation will be held with NHS England having already made their minds up.
“Local people deserve a real consultation, not a sham.”
Dr Chadha has practised in Westfield for more than 30 years.
The centre employs seven people and has around 2,000 patients on its books.
Ms de Gilbert said: “The practice has seen a steady decline in patient numbers over the last seven years. There are three alternative practices within one mile of the practice and a further five within two miles – all of which have open lists.”
But practice administrator Helen Thomas said: “It’s just worrying. There are only seven weeks until Dr Chadha retires and we are none the wiser as to whether we’ll be open beyond December 31.
“Patients are leaving already. You can’t blame them. But elderly patients have been coming in and panicking. Some have been in tears.”
A protest was due to take place outside the practice this morning.