Residents form action group to help keep Long Crendon surgery open

AN ACTION group has been launched to fight plans to close Long Crendon’s only GP surgery later this year.
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Long Crendon Surgery Action Group was formed following a public meeting at the Village Centre on Saturday, September 5, to discuss plans by Unity Health to apply to the Clinical Commissioning Group to close the surgery and get patients to travel to either Brill or Thame for appointments.

Local MP Greg Smith, Dr Anna Furlonger, representing Unity Health, Cameron Branston from Bucks County Council, who lives in the village, Greg Lismore, parish clerk and Councillor Alex Griffiths attended the meeting, which was organised and chaired by resident Fiona Cayley.

Coronavirus restrictions meant only 30 people were allowed to attend the meeting, which aimed to understand the background of the current situation and form a committee to challenge the proposed closure.

Buckingham MP Greg Smith stands outside the surgeryBuckingham MP Greg Smith stands outside the surgery
Buckingham MP Greg Smith stands outside the surgery

Greg Lismore outlined the background relating to a 106 agreement with Greenings developers, Spitfire, over the provision of land on which to build a new surgery in Chearsley Road.

He explained that the parish council owned the site with Spitfire paying rent to use it for storage.

The council has until 2021 to find funding for a new surgery and start construction. If it fails, the land; only available for a surgery, will revert to Spitfire’s ownership.

Cllr Alex Griffiths said Unity Health deemed the current surgery too small and Covid had highlighted it was unfit for purpose.

For four years he has contacted the Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS departments, Unity Health and sought private funding for the surgery, without success.

It is estimated a new surgery would cost between £1.5 to £3 million, the land representing a third of the total cost. With increasing numbers of elderly residents as well as young families amongst the 3,000 residents in need of health care - together with those from Shabbington, Chearsley and Chilton, who also use Long Crendon’s surgery - negotiations, and pressure, were needed to be put on the CCG to change its mind.

Dr Anna Furlonger presented a synopsis of the last 10 years in which Trinity, now Unity, Health had tried to secure a better surgery for Long Crendon, including an option in 2010 on the Greenings’ land.

In 2015 she put in a bid for funding from the newly formed Primary Care Transformation fund and the following year received £50,000 towards pre-project costs; a sum rapidly revised down to £25,000 by the government.

In 2017 she was told the CCG would prefer to reallocate that sum to Thame surgery towards a bigger, more centralised system but after negotiations she was told she could use the money to examine what the needs were.

In 2018 the CCG said it would not support plans put forward by Tim Jones, consulting for a new surgery in Long Crendon, but would support a bigger surgery in Thame.

Dr Furlonger relayed the difficulty in recruiting and keeping GPs who prefer to work in larger surgeries with more colleagues rather than small, isolated surgeries. GPs could not be asked to invest personally in premises, she added.

Unity Health is currently working up a joint venture with Montpellier developers to construct a larger surgery in Thame.

During questions from the audience, Greg Lismore said the CCG’s 10-year strategy plan ended this year so it was a good time to challenge its model going forward for delivering health care.

Former parish council chairman, Richard Thurbon, said Brill was too small to take extra patients and access to Brill was poor. Leaving the village with no surgery should make a difference to how the CCG considers future calls for a surgery in Long Crendon and other locations, such as Church House, which is currently closed, should be considered.

Cameron Branston, Bucks CC, felt it unreasonable for Aylesbury Vale to impose more houses on Long Crendon if there was no infrastructure and amenities to support more residents. He underlined the unsustainable aspect of patients travelling by car, rather than walking, to their local surgery and Fiona Cayley agreed this would not pass the Climate Change Act test.

MP Greg Smith outlined how he could contribute by engaging with the CCG. If negotiations with them failed, he could approach national government to seek funding. He said Long Crendon needed its own surgery and reminded the meeting that the Government was committed to providing an extra 6,000 GPs and 50 million more appointments in GP surgeries by 2024/5.

Fiona urged those at the meeting to ask residents to complete the consultation survey being conducted by Unity Health to make their views known and to fill in the information sheet to offer

help if they wanted to support the campaign.