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Comment: Surgeries are vital assets
Small communities across the Lake District have seen a gradual erosion of many of their local services.
Villages have lost post offices, shops, public toilets and even some primary schools as costs have risen and the number of truly ‘local’ residents has fallen in the wake of rising second and holiday home ownership.
Now, it seems, some GP surgeries - and the attendant pharmacies and dispensaries upon which they depend - are also under threat.
There is real concern at Hawkshead and Coniston that the villages’ surgeries may face closure in the next two or three years.
Doctors blame a number of factors for their financial peril. Health targets which come with financial inducements are getting tougher and the cash rewards smaller; they do not feel they are being properly reimbursed for the number of tourists they are treating and the number of patients at Coniston is falling.
And now the Government is planning to gradually withdraw the Minimum Practice Income Guarantee, which helps top up the funds of smaller surgeries.
More than 300 people turned out to a public meeting on Saturday to voice concerns about the future of the two surgeries. They fear having to travel to doctors as far away as Ambleside and Ulverston would be hard due to poor public transport and believe it could take longer to obtain appointments in larger surgeries.
Now South Lakes MP Tim Farron is urging the Government to introduce simple, annual grants to those GP surgeries most at risk.
There has been huge emphasis in the NHS in recent years on the concepts of person-centred care and healthcare for all. Patients’ wishes, it is said, should be respected and their needs put at the heart of decision making and treatment.
Possible closure of surgeries at Hawkshead and Coniston goes against these fundamental goals.
In these financially-straitened times, everyone is having to take a hit and everyone knows money is tight.
But every effort must be made to find a solution that allows valued community assets like the GP surgeries in these two Lakeland villages to remain open.
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