People power has saved a Sheffield surgery with 2,000 patients – after a campaign forced NHS bosses into a rethink.
Seven providers have now expressed an interest in taking over Westfield Health Centre, which had been earmarked for closure at the end of this month because of the retirement of its sole GP.
NHS England had initially indicated the facility would close, saying moving patients to other surgeries was ‘the only realistic option’ once Dr Gurcharan Singh Chadha left. However, following a campaign by patients, health bosses have now said an interim service will be provided until a new provider is ready to take over.
More than 100 patients, joined by MP Clive Betts, took part in a protest, organised by the Westfield and Halfway Tenants and Residents Association, outside the surgery when the plans came to light.
The public outcry resulted in a re-procurement process being started alongside a patient consultation.
NHS England has now promised that if a permanent new provider cannot start immediately in January, an interim service will be provided from the site.
Mr Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, said: “We are in a much better place than we were a month ago.
“If we had done nothing, it would probably have been closed.”
Richard Armstrong, director of commissioning for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw at NHS England, told a second meeting of patients – attended by more than 100 people – that seven local GPs have expressed an interest in taking over the running of the practice from January.
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Details of who will take over the surgery are to be announced next week.
Mr Armstrong said: “NHS England can confirm we have received seven expressions of potential interest to take over the running of Westfield Health Centre and we hope they will turn into full applications.
“If another GP provider is successfully appointed, we will then need to establish when they would be able to start providing services for patients at the health centre.
“Should they be unable to start from Friday, January 2, we would look to arrange an interim provider.
“NHS England is dedicated to ensuring all patients are kept informed of any final decisions made about the future of the surgery and letters will be sent out next Monday, December 22, to all patients with details of the new arrangements.
“Patients are also invited to attend an open meeting proposed to be held at Shortbrook School next Monday, December 22, at 4pm to discuss the latest outcomes and updates.”
Sarah Young, health branch secretary for GMB Sheffield and a surgery patient, said the meeting was told a decision is due by this Friday.
She said: “I’m hoping they are doing this in good faith.
“I am more hopeful than I was a few weeks ago.
“The campaigning has helped a lot – if local residents hadn’t got together and done something they would have just had it closed.”