Anger as medical centre in Penge faces closure
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 March 2020
The likely closure of a Penge medical centre – forcing more than 5,000 residents to find nearby replacements – has sparked a series of sharp words and finger-pointing at Bromley Council.
Trinity Medical Centre in Croydon Road faces closure in the coming months after NHS Bromley’s Clinical Commissioning Group failed to find a new long-term home for the centre.
While a formal decision is due to be made at the CCG’s meeting on March 26, the move has already attracted political heat from Bromley councillors.
Labour councillors had proposed that Bromley Council use available investment funds to buy the building and keep the surgery open, as part of their amended budget rejected at a meeting last month.
Speaking this week, Councillor Simon Jeal, Labour’s lead on adult care and health said the surgery “sits right at the heart of Penge and will be greatly missed”, and criticised the Conservatives for dumping the proposal.
“It is perverse for Bromley Tories to invest residents’ money in land occupied by fast food outlets such as McDonalds in Southampton whilst refusing to invest in a local GP facility,” he said.
“Buying the building would provide a substantial rental income for the council at the same time as adding social value for residents.
“Where is the ethical justification? The council is making money out of the sale of burgers and fries which adds to the obesity crisis but won’t invest to prevent local GP surgeries from closing. We know other GP practices are also at risk – how many more here will close before the council steps in?”
Council leader Colin Smith fired back, saying the move was the “CCG’s decision alone” while accusing Labour of “political muck raking”.
“This really is rather pathetic party political muck raking by Cllr Jeal and he really should know better than to play with peoples’ sensitivities on such important matters,” he said.
“This is the CCG’s decision and the CCG’s alone and any attempt to try and smear the council is disingenuous at best.”
“Firstly, in the CCG’s own words ‘we did not engage with the council as we should have. We will learn this lesson in future situations’.”
Cllr Smith said alternative options put forward by the Conservatives – such as the temporary installation of a replacement facility somewhere like Royston Field or Penge Recreation Ground – weren’t followed up on.
He added that a briefing paper from the CCG itself showed the number of patients at the practice had declined to 5,262 as of October last year, a decrease of 56 patients from July 2016.
The CCG’s current strategy includes dispersing practices with less than 6,000 patients to larger centres “which are typically more resilient”.
“In other words, it was not unhelpful for the surgery to close in the long term best interests of other CCG surgeries across the wider locality in terms of capacity building,” he said.
Cllr Smith added additional reasons the council didn’t purchase the site was because the building required “significant additional works” to make it both Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Infection Protection and Control (IPC) compliant.
What will happen next for the centre, including its likely closure in June, has been outlined in a letter of intent distributed to patients by the NHS South East CCG partnership earlier this month.
According to the letter, the lease at the site has been extended until June 30 to give patients more time to find a new GP practice.
Primary care services at the site are still expected to cease from the end of March.
The likely closure comes after the GPs who ran the practice for 24 years retired last year, with a decision made to sell the premises.
With no alternative homes able to be found before the current lease expires in March 2020, a meeting later this month will instead see a proposal to wind the centre up and move its 5,000 patients elsewhere moved.
A decision on whether to close the centre was initially meant to be made by the NHS Bromley Clinical Commissioning Group in November.
However, days before it was due to be discussed, the item was wiped from the agenda – with the CCG saying it would be postponed until after December’s general election.