Northern Echo - by Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter: Skerne Medical Group's Fishburn site will close for good.
"PLANS to close a GP surgery in County Durham have been given the green light by health bosses. In 2018, Skerne Medical Group (SMG) came under fire after revealing plans to halve the number of sites it operated from – from four to two. The move was prompted by staffing issues with Fishburn and Trimdon Village surgeries earmarked for closure. Although SMG gained permission to close the Trimdon Village site, proposals for Fishburn were stalled after health bosses ordered SMG to carry out a second consultation with patients. This followed issues with the way the practice originally advertised the closure plans. On Tuesday, NHS North Durham and NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) considered the consultation results. Following discussion, CCG members approved plans to boost provision at two sites, which will see the Fishburn site close for good. Doctors refute claim they want to shut Fishburn surgery by stealth. This includes extension works at Harbinson House in Sedgefield and retaining and improving the Trimdon Colliery surgery.
'This has been a very long process for the practice which is hopefully going to come to a conclusion which will be favourable for the continuity of the practice,' SMG partner, Dr Christine Hearmon, said. 'We have had a lot of issues to work through one of which was our GP recruitment. We do have some very positive signs from our new doctors that they’re going to commit to stay with the practice and that gives us a more stable future.' Dr Hearmon was speaking at Lanchester Community Centre where CCG Primary Care Commissioning Committees for the county approved the plans. She added: 'I think it’s still a bit of a journey to go but it’s a big step in the right direction for the practice.'
Last year, SMG bosses discussed their second consultation at Durham County Council’s Adults, Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which included five options. County councillors were told plans, which included closing Fishburn surgery, were the most popular option for “patients expressing a preference”. However, a decision on the practice shake-up was pushed back as a result of the general election being called in late 2019. Following the decision by CCG bosses this week, SMG will press ahead with works at Harbinson House and Trimdon Colliery. The process is expected to take up to 18 months with the Fishburn surgery remaining open until the project is finished. Patients will be informed of the closure and will be offered the choice to attend remaining practice sites."