Chelmsford surgery that deteriorated irreparably during COVID lockdowns may go to temporary site

Health services may be run out of a temporary building to replace a Chelmsford surgery facing permanent closure because of significant deterioration while being shut during COVID.

Partners at the Wood Street Surgery in Chelmsford want to close the site permanently given it is “unable to provide 21st-century healthcare” after it significantly deteriorated while closed due to COVID-19.

Since the pandemic, doctors and nurses from Wood Street surgery have practised all services for patients in the purpose-built Rivermead Gate site, which is 2.1 miles away.

They will continue to carry out services at Rivermead Gate if the permanent closure comes into place. It means that patients registered at the practice will still be able to be seen by doctors at the Rivermead Gate GP.

An application to close Wood Street permanently had been rejected by Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in October 2021.

But the partners have since said that the condition of the premises had deteriorated so significantly while they had been closed due to COVID-19 that it was now no longer financially viable to repair or renovate.

The remedial work required to make the premises fully accessible to patients of all abilities would also result in having to reduce the number of consulting rooms to two with a consequent impact on the number of clinical appointments that could be offered.

In a letter sent to Vicky Ford MP Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership said: “But following the decision by the CCG in October 2021 to refuse an application from Rivermead Gate to close the Wood Street branch permanently the partners advised that the condition of the premises had deteriorated significantly while they had been closed due to COVID-19 to the extent that they felt that they were no longer fit for purpose.

“A review of the site was therefore undertaken by the CCG’s estates team which concluded that the whilst the premises could be renovated, this was likely to be at considerable cost and the extent to which they could be upgraded would be limited due to the size and layout of the building.”

It adds: “In view of the circumstances the practice has exercised its right to appeal the CCG’s refusal of its request to close the branch surgery and the CCG has agreed the premises can remain closed until this appeal is considered at the next Primary Care Commissioning Committee on June 16.

“The CCG is conscious of its duty to consider the impact of the requested closure on vulnerable patient groups and its wider health and health inequalities implications.

“With this in mind the estates and mid Essex Alliance teams are currently trying to identify alternative solutions, such as whether there is a nearby site from which the branch surgery services could be provided or whether patients could register with local practices.”

Ms Ford said: “I have been pressing the local NHS to try to reopen Wood Street Surgery so I was concerned to receive this letter from the NHS Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the condition of the premises.

“I have spoken to the Mid Essex CCG and I understand that if the decision is taken that the surgery can not reopen, then they will look to establish alternative services. This includes looking for potential sites for a modular clinic nearby.”

A spokesperson at Rivermead Gate Medical Centre has previously said: “As we emerge from the pandemic sadly our Wood Street site has been deemed unfit for purpose of providing 21st Century Healthcare and we are therefore requesting permanent closure of the site.

“We are, therefore, and after much deliberation and consultation with NHS England, Mid Essex CCG, Infection Control advisors and Health and Safety inspectors proposing a permanent closure of the site.

“We have been working in partnership with NHS England and have requested that if in the future they are able to find us an alternative site close to the branch site, we would be more than willing to move into it and not just offer our existing patients localised care, but actively enlarge our patient list, however, currently, there is nothing available.”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter