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A Report on the New Health Centre Public Meeting Held on 12th March

Wednesday 17 March 2010, 17:29
By Biddie Lawson

The meeting was attended by approximately 100 people. It was opened by Dr Ian Philips who welcomed everyone and thanked them for showing their interest in the meeting. He then welcomed the various speakers and introduced them. District councillors and Town councillors were represented. Dr Phillips welcomed in particular Mr John Bradley - Chairman of the Patient Participation Group - and said new members would be welcome and to contact Mr Bradley through the Health centre for more information.

First speaker was Mr David Slack - Director of the Primary Care Trust, who explained the role of the PCT in these matters in particular the following points:

  • To ensure that the services which Doctors provide must be able to embrace future requirements. i.e. over the next 20 years.
  • To develop  Practice Teams which are an essential part of a Practice.
  • To care for patients closer to home - particularly applicable in Somerset with its wide rural areas.
  • To promote Preventative Care which is now high on the agenda for medical practices

For all these reasons and many others, quality premises are essential - the present premises fall below standard requirements.

He added that population growth is expected in Somerset and there is a need to expand. More G.P.s will be needed and therefore the size and quality of premises is extremely important. Funding for the new premises is available at present but cannot be guaranteed if the proposal is postponed.

The next speaker was Janet Loe - Practice Manager of the Wincanton Health Centre. Janet outlined in some detail the shortcomings of the existing premises. Some of the very cramped areas in the Centre and the Staff car parking areas were illustrated on the screen. She explained that the existing premises cover 570 sq. metres and that 961 sq.metres are needed - plus room for expansion again if required. The present building is over thirty years old and falls far short of meeting present day requirements.

Janet addressed the worries some people have about not having a medical centre in the town centre. 40% of patients live outside Wincanton and therefore have to use other transport. Patients visiting the Centre over a two week period were monitored and it was found that 30% of patients walked and 70% came by other transport. She added that whilst not suiting some people others would gain from the new position of the Health Centre, mentioning the New Barns development of 283 houses, 35% of these to be "affordable housing". Her closing warning was  that if  new premises were not acceptable, there was a definite danger of the Patient List in Wincanton having to be closed. This would be a distinct disadvantage to the future of the health Centre and its development.

It was pointed out that foot/cycle paths were to be created running from the town centre to the new premises. The local 'bus companies had promised to look into the question of making stops near the new premises. Car parking at the new premises would, of course, be excellent.

The next speaker was Mr Neil Niblett of Niblett Architecture - Project Manager for the proposed move. Mr Niblett said he had been working on the project for over five years and in that time had viewed a possible ten sites. He had also examined in some details the possibility of expanding the present premises and of taking over the Police station site. These had both proved very costly, would not give sufficient car parking or room for future expansion. Adding - just as important - the design would not comply with the Dept of Health guidelines. He gave very detailed and valid reasons as to why all other sites were not suitable, adding that of all the sites viewed the site behind Rochfords on the Business Park  was definitely the best.

Dr Phillips then rounded off the presentation stating once again that "Staying in our present premises is not an option if we are to continue trying to provide health care to our wide catchment area, not just Wincanton."

Questions were then taken from the floor and answered. These are included below.

The meeting closed at 8.00 p.m.


Questions Asked and Answers Given

In the proposals shown, what provisions are being made for screening (for example for prostate cancer and Aortic Aneurism)?

The Department of Health do not support screening for either of these conditions at present. If this were to change, the practice would certainly consider any commissioning proposals to provide these services.

Will there be a pharmacy provided in the building?

The doctors have no plans to become a dispensing practice. However, whether or not there will be a pharmacy on site or nearby is a commercial decision which needs to be made between the pharmacy company and the developers.

Will there be a shuttle service from the centre of Wincanton to the new surgery?

There are no proposals to provide a shuttle service. However, all parties will work with the relevant authorities to persuade existing transport companies to service the new site.

How much is the total cost of the build likely to be and is there a shortfall that the doctors will have to pay?

The total cost is likely to be substantial but is not relevant for the doctors as they will lease the building from the specialist surgery developers for a rent which is determined by the District Valuer (a government agent who specialises in valuing public property). However, significant costs will fall to the doctors in relocation, furnishing and fitting out the new building and in the general running and overhead costs, none of which are funded by the Primary Care Trust.

Have you considered the Carrington Way picnic site or the allotment site at Overton?

Yes we have looked at both of these. The picnic site is outside the development zone and would therefore not receive planning permission for building. In addition, it has severe access restrictions.

Similarly access to the allotment site is regarded as inadequate at present. In addition, it takes years to change allotment land to alternative use.

Are there any plans regarding adequate road and footpath links to the new surgery site?

Yes as demonstrated on the New Barns Farm site plan. New footpaths will be created which will also be cycle ways with new and improved lighting.

How will people living in the new houses at the back of Common Road get to the new surgery?

We acknowledge that some people will have further to travel than to the existing surgery.

Is there going to be provision for repeat prescriptions to get from the surgery to the pharmacies in town?

Yes we will ensure that the collection arrangements are not affected by the move. In addition, there are national plans for prescriptions to be transferred electronically so this may mean that the physical prescription does not need to be collected.

Is there any possibility of having two health centres in Wincanton?

Logistically, running a two site surgery is very difficult. In addition, the Primary Care Trust would not financially support two surgeries for a population of this size.

Is it possible for the pharmacies to stay open later?

Although we do not run the pharmacies, we are happy to pass on this request to Boots.

What is the population of the catchment area going to increase by? How is this building future proof and how long do we anticipate it will be before expansion is needed?

The honest answer is we do not know. The building is future proof in that it has expansion potential in the design of the layout. We do not know what is going to happen to primary care services in the next twenty years but we have built in expansion space as we believe we will need it. The new proposed site has the advantage of being large enough to cope with any future expansion.




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