FRESHBROOK Surgery has assured patients they will continue to receive the utmost care despite reducing opening hours to three days a week due to crippling staff shortages.
With one GP about to leave the practice, another reducing his hours and no application to fill the vacancies, the surgery, which currently looks after 3,300 people both in West and North Swindon, has been left with no choice but to ask NHS England for the green light to shut two days a week.
Reports that Freshbrook Surgery was considering limiting operation to three days – Monday, Wednesday and Friday – sparked concerns among patients who feared they may be left in the lurch in cases of emergencies.
But Dr Amit Dwivedi, senior partner at the practice, has pledged staff will continue to deliver exemplary care.
The surgery, which merged with Ridge Green Medical Practice in Shaw in 2008, will now work in close partnership with its sister centre, which will welcome Freshbrook patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Elderly Freshbrook patients unable to travel to North Swindon will also be offered home visits, he said.
“There are a number of pressures on general practice at the moment and there is a large recruitment crisis that’s now been going on for a year or two,” said Dr Dwivedi.
“We are not taking this lightly but 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 allow us to work more effectively.
“When we merged with Ridge Green we kept the two sites running as independently as possible but we can’t continue to do that anymore. As a group we have four whole time equivalent GPs.
“We have a lot of patients registered at Freshbrook who don’t realise they are registered at Ridge Green too and actually live closer to Ridge Green. So if they go there they will be able to get an appointment and the number of appointments at Freshbrook will go down.”
Between them both practices have 10,100 registered patients.
Freshbrook Surgery has submitted its plans to NHS England, which will decide whether they can reasonably be rolled out.
Dr Dwivedi 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 lack of people applying for the posts. We are due to hear any day now from NHS England. It is unlikely they would say no.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said he would keep a close eye on the situation to ensure patients were not short-changed.
“I’ve met a number of residents and seen Dr Dwivedi himself and I am monitoring the situation carefully,” he said. “The NHS has not yet decided what is going to happen but the decision should come very soon. I have been seeking reassurance from the practice about the services that would be offered to elderly patients who can’t go to Ridge Green.”