A new doctors surgery in Brighton has been scrapped after health chiefs said that there was no longer enough demand.
Instead the Ardingly Court surgery will remain in its present premises just off St James’s Street rather than move to the corner of Old Steine and Palace Place.
It had been due to move in September, with hundreds of flats and student homes being built near by in Circus Street.
The change of heart of by health chiefs was announced by Brighton and Hove City Council leader Daniel Yates at a meeting at Hove Town Hall on Thursday (January 24).
Councillor Yates told the council’s policy, resources and growth committee: “At the request of the Brighton and Hove CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), the council and health partners have been working together over the past three years on the provision of a new health facility at the vacant council building at 62/63 Old Steine and 3 Palace Place for the relocation of the Ardingly Court surgery.
“The GP practice and the CCG obtained grant funding from NHS England’s Estates, Technology and Transformation (ETTF) Fund as this practice was identified as the highest priority for the city and most in need of investment due to its growing practice size list, additional pressures arising from new housing and practice closures and sub-standard accommodation with no opportunity to expand in its existing location.
“We have been working with the practice and the CCG on these proposals that were agreed by (the policy, resources and growth committee) in July 2017 and continuing to progress the project overcoming challenges and ensuring that we met the grant funding timings.
“The council received a final commitment to sign the lease by SCFT (Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust) in December 2018.
“Unfortunately, on January 8 2019 the CCG met with council officers to inform us that they and SCFT were withdrawing from the project for three reasons:
“Patient demand in this central cluster has changed in the last three months.
“Business model of the GP practice does not work.
“SCFT’s requirement for space has changed and they no longer require any additional capacity in the building.
“Following this withdrawal from the project, meetings have been held between the chief executive and health partners and it was agreed that the council would send the CCG a breakdown of the costs incurred along with a timeline showing the key stages and milestones which has been done.
“The council continues to work with the CCG and health partners on other projects in the city to deliver a health hub at Preston Barracks and the disposal of Oxford Street car park to provide the combined St Peter’s and North Laine surgery.
“I have asked that officers bring a report to a future committee providing a further update on this as well options for the future of the council building.”
Councillor Karen Barford, who chairs the council’s health and wellbeing board, said: “Since 2016 the council and its health partners have been working with the CCG to progress plans for a new GPs surgery at 62/63 Old Steine and 3 Palace Place for the relocation of Ardingly surgery.
“The GP practice and the CCG obtained grant funding from NHS England as the practice was identified as the highest priority for the city and most in need of investment.
“The CCG has now decided to withdraw from the project which is incredibly disappointing for everyone who has worked to progress this scheme and to the all the stakeholders involved, not least the people living in the area, but ultimately this is a decision which is the CCG’s to make.
“The CCG must have evidence-based reasons for this change of direction at such a late stage and I’m sure they would have not have reached this decision lightly.”
Outside the meeting Brighton and Hove CCG said: “We are committed to improve local people’s access to GP services.
“The need for extra GP capacity the Palace Place proposal offered has diminished since the plans were first developed.
“A number of neighbouring practices have sought to increase their registered patient list sizes and now have made more appointments available at weekends and evenings, making it easier for people to register and see a local GP.
“If the surgery now moves to Palace Place, as originally planned over two years ago, then the practice risks being unable to recruit enough patients for it to remain a financially sustainable practice.
“We are continuing to work closely with Ardingly Court Surgery to improve their premises and to support the development of plans for the practice team to continue to provide high quality care for their patients.”
The CCG added: “Every effort is made to support the GPs in the city so that they can provide services for local people, as they face the same pressures that are being reported from around England.
“These support measures include financial and educational support to help them run their surgeries more effectively and efficiently to free up doctors to provide more care for patients.
“One surgery we helped saved the equivalent of seven weeks of consultation time per year through a change in repeat prescription process we identified.
“A key area of our plans to improve health and social care across the city is to make sure general practice is more sustainable, more resilient and works efficiently and effectively for many years ahead.
“This will include integrating some services, with other clinical specialists like pharmacists better supporting GPs, and helping GPs work more collaboratively together.
“There are also a number of specific schemes such as GP retention package as well as oversees recruitment that the CCG is implementing as part of its workforce strategy.”
By Frank Le Duc, Local Democracy Reporting Service.