West Malling surgery is saved from axe

Pam Mills

The owners of the practice, which has 20,300 people on its books, put the premises up for sale in favour of the latter site, which they described as ‘half-empty’.

There were fears that it would close in same way that West Malling Group Practice [WMGP] shut Woodlands surgery in East Peckham in March.

That decision was taken by West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group as part of its sweeping restructuring plans, meaning its 1,500 patients have to travel to Paddock Wood instead.

In January WMGP said it would only ‘maintain a presence’ in West Malling, where there has been a surgery on the High Street for 70 years.

Then in February it pledged that the building would remain open into next year, but could not give assurances beyond 2019. The news led to widespread concerns about access for less mobile members of the community, especially those who do not own cars.

Trudy Dean, Chairman of the Parish Council, said the move ‘would be very difficult for elderly people, people with mobility problems and families with very young children’.

Tom Tugendhat, MP for Tonbridge & Malling, expressed his delight at the decision after being a vocal campaigner against the proposed move.

He wrote to the partners on August 14 raising concerns about the practice’s future as well as residents’ difficulty in securing appointments.

In response the surgery confirmed that ‘face to face appointments for patients will remain at the West Malling site for many years to come’.

Mr Tugendhat said: “I’m delighted that West Malling Group Practice have confirmed that they will remain on the site for years to come. This safeguards medical services in West Malling.

“I’m pleased that the practice have listened to the strong views that I, and many residents, have made frequently, which is that a town like West Malling needs a GP surgery providing key services for all residents.”

WMGP put the premises on the market based on the NHS ‘Super Practice plan’, which aims to ‘move all Primary Care services into -commercially viable buildings in a move away from the cottage industry it once was and the residential buildings it started in’.

It added: “The NHS plan [is] to look at practices to have services for around 30,000 patients in one location.”

It cites a report by Dr Thomas Reichhelm, WMGP’s Managing Partner, in 2016 which highlighted ‘ageing accommodation and the stretch of staff across three sites [West Malling, Kings Hill and Leybourne]’.

He stated: “Working across three sites at the time of resource reduction, is proving to be tough and probably not sustainable at present.”

PICTURE: PATIENTS REWARDED: Tom Tugendhat has fought a long campaign to save West Malling surgery

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