Public money will still be used to pay for the upkeep of a GP surgery building, even if its proposed closure goes ahead.
Health bosses want to shut Wrenthorpe Branch Surgery, on Wrenthorpe Road, Wakefield, and merge its services with parent practice Outwood Park Medical Centre a mile away, despite a backlash against the move from people in the area.
Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) insists the decision will improve the quality of care they can give to patients. They also say free transport will be provided to ferry Wrenthorpe villagers to Outwood for at least six months after the closure.
Officials from the CCG were given an intense grilling about the move at a health scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday afternoon. Afterwards, the committee chair said she was “not convinced” by the merits of the decision and “more assurances” would be needed.
The CCG’s head of primary care, Chris Skelton, told the meeting that the GP surgery premises was owned by NHS Property Services.
He said: “At the moment we pay the medical practice to pay for the premises.
“After the move, as the leaseholder we’d still have to continue to pay NHS Property Services until they found someone else to take over the building.”
Patients wanting a lift from Wrenthorpe to Outwood Park, on Potovens Lane, will be able to ring up and order the transport, doctors said.
But Councillor Ros Lund, who is registered with the practice herself, said she had “given up” trying to ring the surgery because she was unable to get through.
She asked: “Are you doing anything about the phone system because it’s clearly not coping with current demand?
“I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve not been able to get through. I’ve been totally frustrated by it.”
The two partner medics at the practice, Dr Shaq Sarwa and Dr Anwar Al-Khaili, said that the system would be “streamlined” and people would be discouraged from ordering prescriptions over the phone.
Just one GP and a receptionist are based at Wrenthorpe and the CCG say that only 15 appointments a week take place at the surgery.
But the group was taken to task over its claim that by moving the GP to Outwood, patients would get a 52 per increase in face-to-face contact with doctors.
Representatives admitted that that figure was based on other factors as well as the merger.
The doctors also insisted that the free transport to Outwood Park from Wrenthorpe would be continued after six months, if it was being used.
Richard Hindley, vice chair of the CCG said: “If it doesn’t continue, it will be because we can replace it with something better.
“The most important thing here is what is best for our patients. They are right at the heart of every decision we make.
“We did give the petitions (against the closure) considerable weight.”
Having originally planned to shut the surgery in July, the CCG now say they’ve not put a date on the move as they await the findings of the scrutiny committee.
Committee chair Betty Rhodes said she wanted more answers about the move.
She said: “This has gone on since last year. The patients in the area must be very frustrated to say the least.
“We need some further assurances. I think there’s still some things that need to be cleared up before we’re further satisfied that all the issues have been dealt with