Prime Minister probes Slaidburn medical centre battle

Prime Minister David Cameron. 'Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron. 'Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

A campaign to save a local health centre has received a welcome boost after Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Staff and patients at Slaidburn Country Practice are fighting to secure additional funding for the practice to meet the shortfall when its current funding, the Minimum Income Guarantee, is removed from April 1st.

They say the loss of this funding will mean the health centre will become unviable.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Evans said: “With the disappearance of the MPIG, many doctors’ surgeries serving remote rural areas, such as the one in Slaidburn in my constituency, face death not by a thousand cuts, but perhaps by one cut.

“They serve many elderly residents and a number of children who do not have access to great public transport to go into neighbouring Clitheroe.

“Will the Prime Minister investigate this issue and ensure my constituents will not be isolated and will continue to receive the excellent service they do now from their doctors’ surgery?”, he asked.

Prime Minister David Cameron responded: “I will look carefully at the case the hon. gentleman makes. I, too, represent a large rural constituency where there are still small practices.

“It is the case, however, that many more doctors’ surgeries are offering many more services with practice nurses and other assistance given to patients. We want to see that growing, not least to make sure people can go to GP surgeries rather than accident and emergency units if it is a GP they need, but I will look at the specific point he makes.”

After Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Evans said he would meet Ros Roughton, head of GP Commissioning at NHS England, this month along with Dr Massey and other practice representatives.

Meanwhile, the Slaidburn Steering Committee has contacted MPs from other surgeries throughout the country affected by the issue. It has also contacted members of the House of Lords with the aim of prompting an adjournment debate.

The following motion was recently discussed by the health and housing committee at Ribble Valley Borough Council and adopted at full council.

The motion submitted by Coun. Ken Hind read: “This Ribble Valley Borough Council recognises the importance of the 100 rural health centres and medical practices in sparsely populated areas where transport links to urban centres are limited and patients spread out over wider geographical areas and urges....

1 Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, Lancashire County Council, to press HMG, NHS England to support these practices to avoid their closure; 2 Urges HMG to make GP practices such as Slaidburn special cases for funding, accepting the particular needs and problems that they have to deal with by: (a) reversing the policy of phased withdrawal of the minimum practice income from these practices to avoid their closure; and (b) establishing a funding formula which will secure the future of these rural practices and avoid elderly and vulnerable patients having to travel too many miles to Clitheroe and other distant urban centres for health care.”

It was resolved letters should be sent to the chairman of the Lancashire Health and Wellbeing Board, Public Health Lancashire County Council and the Secretary of State for Health, Mr Jeremy Hunt.