A PATIENT says he felt blindsided by a decision to close Freshbrook Surgery for two days a week due to staff shortages and a lack of applicants.
Michael Bateman, who has been registered at the practice for nearly 25 years, along with his sister, mother and partner, was dismayed to discover, through carrying out his own investigation, that the surgery was poised to reduce opening hours to three days a week.
Despite having a major impact on the care of thousands of people in West Swindon, the decision was not discussed with those most concerned – a move he described as a slight to patients.
“We, the patients, had been told nothing of the application to close the extra two days per week,” said the 42-year-old.
“It’s a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted for the patients, as it would seem we’ll only be informed once the decision has been made.
“It just seems that the whole thing has been a very back door way of making changes to the surgery opening times and the patients will either have to like it or lump it.”
On Friday, senior partner at Freshbrook Surgery Dr Amit Dwivedi confirmed that, with one GP about to leave, another reducing his hours and no applications to fill the vacancies, the practice had asked NHS England for permission to shut on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
He said the surgery merged with Ridge Green Medical Practice in Shaw in 2008, and it would welcome Freshbrook patients on those days.
He also pledged to offer home visits to elderly patients unable to travel to Ridge Green.
He said: “We are not shutting because we want to or because we are losing money, but because of a lack of locum support when people are on holiday and a lack of people applying for the posts.
“I need to invest in the future and make the most of what we have.
“We decided to concentrate our resources on three days to work more effectively.”
But Michael said there is already a waiting list of up to three weeks for appointments and he has difficulty organising home visits for his mother, who suffers from leg ulcers.
“People will go to the walk-in centre or A&E if they cannot get into their own surgery for an appointment.
“This will put an additional strain on already overstretched services.
“The comment Dr Dwivedi made regarding appointments being available for Freshbrook patients at Ridge Green is a bit of a joke, as for a non-emergency appointment you can wait two or three weeks.
“This is going to increase if patients from Freshbrook are also trying to book in.”