Plans for new surgery in Aylesbury village revealed

MORE than 100 villagers attended an online meeting on Saturday morning to discuss plans for a new health and wellbeing centre in Long Crendon to replace the current surgery, deemed “unfit for purpose”.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 10:58 am
Looking good!

Organised jointly by the Save Our Surgery Group, Unity Health GP practice and Long Crendon Parish Council, it gave architect Alex Bond, of PCMS Design, the chance to present drawings of the proposed building at Greenings off Chearsley Road, and answer residents’ questions.

Mr Bond hopes to complete the design and have costs in shortly to enable a planning application to be submitted to Buckinghamshire Council by mid-March.

Chaired by Fiona Cayley, chairman of SOS Group, other speakers included Greg Smith MP, and Dr Anna Furlonger of Unity Health.

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Jessica Newman of the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) also attended.

Mr Smith backed the project from the outset last summer when the SOS Group formed following an outcry at Unity Health’s application to the CCG to close New Chapel Surgery, High Street by December 2020.

Answering questions on funding, he said he would “keep banging” on Ed Argar, Minister for Health and Social Care’s door.

SOS has worked to find a way to provide an innovative health and wellbeing centre on land at the Greenings development, earmarked for a surgery as part of a planning agreement with the developers.

If work does not start on building the surgery by December, the land – a site large enough to build 20 homes – will revert back to the developers.

“So there is a lot to sort out before then,” said Mrs Cayley. “We have come a long way but we are not done yet. We have got to sort the plans out, get planning permission, raise funds and find a builder to start the building work.

“But we can’t do any of that until we get planning permission. In the absence of a fairy godmother we need the community to get behind this scheme and support us.”

With Unity Health agreeing to postpone closure, the Parish Council appointed Alex Bond to design the centre, which will be a multi-purpose site with doctors’ treatment rooms, a dispensary and facilities for other health providers, such as anti-natal and post-natal care, therapy groups, care for the elderly and training space for health workers.

Mr Bond presented slides depicting work on the project as well as drawings of the planned building. He said: “It is a multi-functional building and from the outset a community-led project. It will have practitioners operating from there, a dispensary…and other healthcare services.

“I’ve tried to make this building as sustainable as reasonably practicable.”

The flat-roofed area will have a green roof of sedum plants and the pitched roof has solar panels. Car parking would have a permeable surface to allow drainage and an ecological assessment has been carried out.

There were concerns from Greenings residents about noise and on-road parking. Mr Bond said the space was allocated as two thirds for health services and the rest for community use.

He thought 10pm a likely closing time for activities there.

Greg Smith MP, was asked what areas of funding were available from Government, bearing in mind its commitment to providing 6,000 more GPs and 50 million more appointments by 2024/5.

He said: “There isn’t a pot for new GP surgeries or new health facilities that MPs can bid for… but that is not to say there isn’t money in the system.”

He said Ed Argar, a Minister of State for Health, was happy to look at the proposal sympathetically and to see how Government could support it to get the right primary care provision in Long Crendon.

“They need a clear business plan and clear detail of precisely what it is to fund. Government doesn’t, generally speaking, agree to funding concepts.”

He said the CCG, Unity Health and the parish needed to be on board and get its application and business case with running costs signed off.

“I am confident there is money there. It marries up with a clear commitment from Government. I think there is a very good chance of getting money and I’ll absolutely back that. So I am very happy to keep banging on his (Ed Argar’s) door as often as necessary.”

Dr Anna Furlonger, senior partner at Unity Health, said GPs had been operating a telephone triage system even before Covid 19, which worked well and they intended to continue that.

Regarding provision at the new premises she said: “We would look to provide access to the same range of GPs, practice nurses, health care assistants to take bloods and EGC’s. It is very much about working innovatively to provide the best service, which we are passionate about. It is very exciting.”

Answering a question on security, she said there were strict regulations regarding the control of drugs and this was “integral to the design.” She said no paper records were stored at any of Unity Health’s surgeries.

Full GP cover was being offered from its other sites and during the time taken to complete the new premises – up to nine months – she anticipated talks with the CCG to provide a level of service from its current building in Long Crendon, though minor adjustments were needed to the building to make it Covid safe.

She reiterated the importance of supporting the surgery’s dispensary as this was “absolutely central” to finance ongoing running costs of services from the village.

With the new build expected to cost around £750,000, questions were raised about funding. Parish Councillor Alex Griffiths said the PC had funded the surveys and architect so far but couldn’t do anything until they had a plan and costs.

“This is not a done deal. We are long way away from getting this off the ground and operating.”

It was difficult for the PC to take money from different sources without it being ring-fenced he explained.

If the money wasn’t forthcoming from Government then other ways to raise it were an interest-free loan over 50 years; private finance and then raise more money locally. He welcomed the MP’s support and offer of help.

Thanking speakers, Mrs Cayley added: “If anyone is itching to contribute to this project we can take pledges.

“I passionately believe we can do this if we pull together. It is important to get this planning application through as quickly as possible. I really hope we can speak as one voice in this community for this project.”