GP appointments still available in West Malling but ‘only for very few’
26th June 2019
THERE will continue to be GP provision in West Malling despite work having begun to move the practice to Kings Hill.
But there are concerns that the service will be limited to a small number of people – with only one doctor and one nurse available.
Most of the patients will be seen at the new site unless they are unable to make the journey. The old surgery has 20,300 people on its books.
Last year, West Malling Group Practice tried to sell the current site at Milverton on the High Street.
It has housed the surgery for more than 70 years, but was deemed to be no longer fit for purpose.
However, residents secured an assurance that face-to-face appointments would still be available for ‘many years’.
The practice has now announced that renovation has begun on the Kings Hill surgery, which was described as ‘half-empty’ but in a ‘good state of repair’ with lifts.
And a building situated behind Milverton, called The Hollies, will now provide two consulting rooms from Monday to Friday.
The old building is partly listed, which means the large amount of repair work required would have cost more money than for an unlisted building.
'Exactly who will qualify for those limited appointments and how many will be offered is unclear. Only one GP and one nurse will be available'
The West Malling Medical Group said: “Renovation work has commenced at Kings Hill surgery as a first step towards the changes at West Malling. It is scheduled to finish towards the end of July.”
It added: “Depending on IT infrastructure installation and a final sign-off by the West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group we will move the main activities at West Malling into the upstairs in Kings Hill in August/September. The final date is still fluid.
“The main building at West Malling will then close. We will retain two consulting rooms as a satellite clinic in ‘The Hollies’ building on the same site.”
She added: “It is important that appointments at West Malling surgery are protected for those who truly can’t get to Kings Hill.
“As such there is an expectation that the majority of people will be seen at Kings Hill.
“The majority of services will then be provided from our purpose-built facility there.”
Trudy Dean, chair of West Malling Parish Council and Liberal Democrat councillor for Larkfield North, told the Times: “The situation at West Malling surgery is far from clear to us.
“Though appointments will still be available at The Hollies, we are told they will only be for the ‘very few who truly cannot make it’ to Kings Hill.
“Exactly who will qualify for those limited appointments and how many will be offered is unclear. Only one GP and one nurse will be available.
“We are also very concerned for the arrangements regarding regular diabetic and heart patient clinics, and prescriptions as these often mean frequent visits for residents.”
'The key issue is that those who need an appointment in the town will be able to access one. I’m pleased our work last year was worth it'
She added: “We have had a surgery in West Malling High Street for over 100 years, and ease of access to the GP and pharmacy has been an important part in the decision of many families to live in West Malling.
“Residents are angry and devastated by the decision of the practice to withdraw most of its activities away from the heart of our market town.
“We are anxious to do whatever we can to reverse this decision or assist the practice in keeping more services in West Malling.”
Tom Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge & Malling who was instrumental in the campaign to save the surgery, said: “The announcement is, I am assured, not a reversal of the promises made to the community last year.
“I am told you will be able to access both a GP and also a nurse here.
“It will be fully operational as a GP surgery so if you need to be seen in West Malling, you will be able to.”
He continued: “Like many I was concerned that the commitment made last year might not be continued, but am pleased that the practice, through the Patients Participation Group, have confirmed face-to-face appointments will remain in West Malling.
“The key issue is that those who need an appointment in the town will be able to access one. I’m pleased our work last year was worth it.”