Communities have their say on surgery proposals

Patients and communities across North Norfolk have had their say on proposals for the future of a doctor’s surgery.

They had the opportunity to share their views about plans to close the branch surgery at Blakeney which is being proposed by Holt Medical Practice.

The public meeting, which was attended by about 250 people, gave residents the opportunity to find out more about the plan, have their say and find out how they can make their views known formally.

In a presentation, the practice told the audience that the current building had many issues inside and out that contributed to their belief that it was unsuitable for modern working.

The building has some structural and access issues, and is lacking in infection prevention and control standards, particularly in the consultation rooms. With only two rooms it is also too small to operate according to the modern way GPs work in multidisciplinary teams. There is insufficient space for the now wider range of clinical employees (with a wider variety of skills) to treat patients as many need to be supervised by GPs. Staff are also not keen to work there as facilities are non-existent and there were concerns about lone working.

It says a rebuild to a bigger footprint would be the only possible option to future-proof  but it would be expensive. The practice went on to explain that even if the funding was available, there would still be the ongoing issues relating to limited availability of workforce and the additional expense of running three sites to consider. They explained they would need to divert workforce and resource from Holt and Melton Constable in order to provide at Blakeney.

The practice has pledged to investigate the ways they may be able to mitigate the impact of the site closing on the local community including raising awareness of the need for volunteer drivers, ensuring the most vulnerable who collect their medication from Blakeney Surgery are offered free delivery, and to exploring whether a different medicine collection site or a medication vending machine could be located elsewhere in Blakeney.

In a statement, the practice said: “The decision to make this application to close Blakeney Surgery is not one we have taken lightly, and we have given it long and careful thought. There are significant operational and financial reasons that we feel it is the only realistic option for the wider practice to remain robust and resilient in the evolving and demanding NHS. We are proud of the level of healthcare we provide to our patients, and to continue to do this properly and safely, we need to consolidate our resources over our two already suture-proof sites, not spread out over three.”

Consideration was given by the Chair and other GP Partners at the meeting about the very real and current difficulties all practices are experiencing in recruiting GPs, and especially GP Partners. The Practice explained that it recently received no suitable applicants for a GP role it advertised and that with several of its current GP Partners due to retire in the next 5 – 7 years, it is more aware than ever for the need of the Partnership and the business model to be future-proof.

Campaigners spoke of their concern for residents who may be left more vulnerable and isolated if the surgery does close. The campaign has been led by District Councillor Dr Victoria Holliday and by Rosemary Thew and Nigel Sutcliffe, Chair and Vice Chair of Blakeney Parish Council.

Dr Holliday said “For more than 180 years, there has been a local doctor looking after Blakeney and its surrounding villages. I was one of them.

“If Blakeney closes, the nearest medical care for Blakeney residents will be a 14-mile round trip to High Kelling or a 20-mile round trip to Melton Constable.

“Almost a fifth of Blakeney residents don’t have a car. For them, it will be an almost 4 hr round trip from Blakeney by bus to High Kelling and similar transport issues affect residents in other villages across the catchment area.

“Over 40% of Blakeney residents are over 65 and over a quarter of these live alone. It will not just affect older residents. How will a young mother manage on public transport with two children in a pushchair?

‘The NHS pledges to provide convenient easy access to services. My contention is that the surgery could and should remain, and I hope the local community will support me.”

Rosemary Thew, added: ‘The meeting clearly showed the depth of anger and concern felt by people because of this proposed closure. Accessing the surgeries at Holt and Melton Constable is virtually impossible for some: disabled and elderly people are particularly affected, but this is an issue which affects everyone living in Blakeney and the surrounding villages’

Nigel Sutcliffe said ‘We have been arguing, for some years now, that the surgery has not followed proper process and has been closing the surgery by stealth. This is discrimination against those living in a rural area, many of whom cannot readily access medical services. They are dependent on family, friends or external help simply to get to a surgery. This is not acceptable”.

There will be the chance for people to have their say in many ways. The Medical Practice is running a patient survey from August 14 to September 30 and it will be available to complete online on the Practice website, or in hard copy from any if its surgeries. There will also be comment boxes at each surgery and a series of drop-in sessions run by Healthwatch Norfolk to gather feedback. Views can also be submitted by letter and email.

These responses must all be in by September 30 and then during October, Healthwatch Norfolk will work with the Practice to ensure proper process is followed.

In Nov-Dec 2023, Holt Medical Practice will formally submit its application to Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board, who will then decide on whether Blakeney Surgery will close in early 2024.

How to have your say

  • A patient survey on the practice website at from August 14
  • A printed copy of the survey which can be collected from Holt, Melton and Blakeney Surgeries ( easy read copies will also be available)
  • Drop-in sessions in August at Holt Surgery (16th between 10.30am-12.30pm), Melton Surgery (31st between 10.30am-12.30pm) and Holt Library (29th between 10.30-12.30)
  • Leave views in comment boxes at Holt and Melton Constable Surgeries where you can also return hard copy surveys.
  • Email [email protected] or write to FAO Katie Franklin, Holt Medical Practice, Kelling Hospital Site, Old Cromer Road, High Kelling, Norfolk NR25 6QA