MP hails rescue of rural Ribble Valley medical centre a 'community triumph'

Villagers in Slaidburn are celebrating after it was announced that their cherished medical centre is to remain open for the next two years.
Villagers in Slaidburn are celebrating after it was announced that their cherished medical centre is to remain open for the next two years.

A rural health centre, that faced the axe as it struggled to remain financially viable, has been saved.

And news that Slaidburn Medical Centre is to stay open was hailed as a "community triumph' by Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans.

Villagers had campaigned to keep their doctor's surgery open through a social media campaign and several public meetings to rally support for their cause. They were even considering ideas to raise the £40,000 shortfall funding needed.

Speaking after the announcement yesterday by the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, that a new provider has been found for the centre for the next two years, Mr Evans said: "The news that Slaidburn Medical Centre staying open is a community triumph that could not have been achieved without the dedicated and tireless work of Mike Fairbairn the chairmman of Slaidburn Country Practice Patient Participation Group and all those who made representations to me, the CCG and the Department for Health.

“From meeting some of the patients last weekend and listening to their strong sentiment about the practice it seems very clear that the service is cherished by all those who use it.

"The service is not only a GP practice, it also provides near-instant care for a rural community where ambulances take nearly an hour to arrive – the practice gives elderly residents in the area reassurance that medical assistance is nearby."

Mr Evans has also spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the centre and its continued uncertainty to ensure he understands the continued difficulties of small communities like Slaidburn.

Mr Evans added: "Although the signing of this contract is fantastic news, I do not wish to see any diminution of service at the facility and will continue to apply pressure to the relevant bodies to ensure the long-term

future of Slaidburn Medical Centre is secured.”

The MP also plans to invite the Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, to visit the medical centre to see for himself the service it provides and how cherished it is by the villagers.

Following a long procurement process, the CCG announced yesterday that Bowland Health Ltd will be taking over the GP contract at Slaidburn Medical Centre.

The procurement process, run by NHS East Lancashire, is a tried and tested way of inviting bids to provide GP services. As part of the process, a panel of experts, including a patient representative from the Slaidburn Country Practice, were asked to review and consider the bids and recommend a preferred GP provider.

Dr Amy Bonner, Medical Director of Bowland Health Ltd, has nine years of GP experience and has previously worked as a locum in Slaidburn and Clitheroe and is familiar with the health needs of local people.

Her clinical interests include lifestyle medicine, and health promotion, and she is passionate about helping people to live healthily and well.

Dr Bonner said: “I am delighted and honoured to be given the opportunity to run Slaidburn Country Practice and continue working with this fantastic group of staff and patients.

"Being local to the area, I appreciate the vital nature of a reliable primary care service in this rural setting. At Bowland Health we hope to build on the existing surgery and achieve sustainable healthcare for the local people into the future."

Mike Fairbairn, chairman of Slaidburn Country Practice Patient Participation Group said: “I was pleased to be involved in the procurement evaluation run by the CCG. It is important that the voice of the patient is heard, particularly in the case of Slaidburn Practice where people are extremely concerned about the potential loss of the service.

“The CCG has tried hard to get the best possible GP service for Slaidburn and surrounding areas. As a result of this I am optimistic for the future of Slaidburn Country Practice and look forward to supporting Dr Bonner in her leadership of the practice as well as working towards a long-term solution for maintaining the practice as an integral part of our rural communities.”

The campaign to save the medical centre began when the CCG announced it had served notice for the contract to end on September 30th unless NHS England could find a new provider prepared to run it.

A small rural practice it is isolated from its neighbours by the Bowland Fells and has just over 1,100 patients,

Its closure would mean that patients would have to make an almost 20 mile round trip to see a doctor while the nearest accident and emergency department is in Blackburn, which is almost an hour away.

The CCG has said there will be a period of transition and handover from the existing GP provider to the new GP service but this would prioritise continuity for the patients.

For patients registered with Slaidburn Country Practice service will run as usual and there is no need to

do anything other than use the practice as they always have done.