On Tuesday night I attended a dinner at which the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was speaking. He reminded us that, despite times of austerity, NHS funding had been protected. In fact, thanks to £1 billion in savings from administration, there are 1,700 more nurses and 7,000 more doctors since the last election.
So when on Friday 2 May I learnt that the NHS was suddenly to close Mill Stream Medical Centre in Storrington, I was confident that this was nothing to do with 'cuts'. The reasons relate to concerns about the practice and the protection of patients, and were explained to me in a letter from the Area Director of NHS England which can be seen on my website.
Naturally this came as a shock to the community, as it did to me. I understand that such action is very unusual in the NHS, and I am very sorry about the circumstances that have led to it, and for the patients and staff affected.
People have also asked why the Mill Stream Surgery could not continue to be used, even if run by other doctors. I understand that, although there were at various stages discussions with other practices to provide services at Mill Stream, it was not possible to agree alternative arrangements. The NHS does not own the Mill Stream premises.
However, the other GP practice close by in Storrington, The Glebe Surgery, has made contingency arrangements to take all the patients who wish to register there. I met Dr David Whitehead, Senior Partner at The Glebe, last Friday to discuss these issues, and there is a reassuring letter from him on my website.
Looking forward, I believe that Storrington needs a new medical centre, as we have seen in Steyning and Pulborough, particularly when there are development pressures which will expand the village population, and when demand for health services is rising. I have already started to make that case to the NHS.
Over the past few days I have spoken at length to NHS managers and to GPs about the closure of Mill Stream. I do not believe that I can gainsay the clinical judgement which has led to this sad decision.
But I will do everything in my power to ensure that first class GP services are available to all who need them in and around Storrington.