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New Milton GP surgeries merger will bring more services, promise doctors

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Dr Will Howard from New Milton Health Centre addresses the residents meeting
Dr Will Howard from New Milton Health Centre addresses the residents meeting

THE proposed merger of three local GP practices will lead to patients in New Milton and Barton being provided with more medical services not less, a packed general meeting of the local residents’ association was promised.

It was standing room only at New Milton Community Centre as the audience heard Dr Will Howard from New Milton Health Centre explain that their proposed link-up with the Arnewood and Barton Webb-Peploe practices had been prompted by “what is happening in the NHS at large.’’

The intention was to provide a “super service” as the three will become one practice called Coastal Medical Partnership, which will have over 20 GPs and 34,000 patients.

Dr Howard explained there was pressure on practices around the country to change and streamline their services under the NHS 10-year plan.

He told the audience: “Let’s not mess it up now.”

Talking about the proposed merger, he said: “We feel it is the next logical step for the practices. We have always worked well together and personally we all get along well.

“We want to be on the ground delivering new services for the whole of the town. What this is not is an exercise in reducing costs or services.

“This is not closure of one, or more of the practices, or a takeover by a large corporation. This is us, all partners, providing commitment, providing care. This is three practices working more closely together to improve services, not take services away.”

His words were greeted by a round of applause from the audience before he added that all the practices would continue to “operate as family doctors, I am a family GP.”

Dr Howard said he believed merging the practices will also attract more doctors and nurse practitioners to work in the area.

He told how since 2017, 134 surgeries had closed down in the UK and that 450,000 people had found that their GP surgery had gone.

He said: “We live in a lovely south coast middle class area, what could possibly go wrong here? We should have no problem attracting GPs, but in fact just down the road in Bournemouth and Christchurch practices are closing. Lyme Regis now has its health services provided by private health care.

“We want to make this an exciting place for people to come and work, attract more doctors to the area. We want to continue to attract a skilled workforce in an increasingly demanding market.”

Matt Perkins, practice manager at Barton Webb-Peploe, reassured the audience that at the beginning “very little” would change at the three surgeries.

He said: “There will be the same sites, the same doctors. There is a lot of behind the scenes work going on but it will be business as usual.”

Mr Perkins said as a result of the merger there would be “opportunities” to increase local services and improve current ones. One of the new services on offer would be a physiotherapist so rather than a doctor having to see someone before referring them for treatment they could be booked in directly.

Dr Howard said there were “hundreds” of new services the practices could introduce but added “We must be careful not to bite off more than we can chew.”

Mr Perkins said the merger would take two to three years to achieve and it was hoped it would be completed by April 2020.

The presentation was followed by a Q&A session during which one member of the public asked if the records of patients of all the practices would be shared by all three when the merger went ahead.

Mr Perkins said they would eventually but medical staff were only allowed access to them under strict guidelines.

Another audience member asked if the merger would result in any job losses to which Mr Perkins replied: “Absolutely not, this is not an exercise of cost-cutting in fact the merger will cost us money. We see this as an investment. We need everyone we have got.”

After the meeting some patients expressed their views on the proposed merger. Jill Fairfrax (68) from Ashley said: “It seems exciting. It sounds like we have forward-thinking GPs who are trying to move us towards the NHS 10-year plan which is great.”

Edith Cansdale (93) from Barton, who has been a patient at the Barton practice for 27 years, said: “I’ve seen a lot off comings and goings. I think the practice could do with improving and this all sounds very good. I have to say they do look after me really well there.”

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