Homeland Drive, Belmont
In earlier posts on this site we have set out our concerns about the proposed closure of the Grove Road and Belmont surgeries, used by many residents of our Ward, and opening of a replacement surgery in a building in Homeland Drive, in Belmont. This is of particular concern due to the high proportion of over 75s in our Ward (a higher percentage than for any other Ward in Sutton) and the lack of any GP surgery in the Ward. There is a problem of access to the site, which is poorly served by public transport.
At the Council’s Strategy and Resources Committee on 11 February and at the Council meeting on 3 March Richard and Heather repeated their opposition to the proposal and pressed for improvements to the proposed community transport scheme. This would go some way to ameliorating our concerns.
In speeches to Council on 3 March both Richard and Heather expressed concern that the doctors did not seem interested in proposals from Ruth Dombey, our Council leader, to help find a better alternative site.
We are writing to NHS England and continuing our campaign within the decision-taking structures of the NHS. Here is the text of Richard’s speech to Council on 3 March summarising our position.
“Councillor Honour and I, as Councillors for Sutton South Ward, have consistently opposed the move of the two surgeries to the Henderson hospital site. Our Ward has the highest proportion of elderly residents of any Ward in Sutton and there are many residents of our Ward who go to the Grove Road or Belmont surgeries. Our objection to the site is that it is not sufficiently accessible by public transport. What has been offered by way of a community transport service, to deal with this problem, is a help but does not resolve the problem.
This motion applauds the efforts made by Councillor Dombey to resolve this issue, and I would like to warmly support that sentiment.
This is a decision taken by local doctors who work within the National Health Service. I understand from the evidence that NHS England gave to the Council’s Scrutiny Committee last year that the doctors have to put their case for the move to NHS England. Councillor Honour and I have written to NHS England to remind them of their responsibilities in this matter and ask them not to endorse this decision.
The local authority has come into this by the back door in three ways. First, as local planning authority, because the doctors need planning permission for the building. I sat through the discussion at the Development Control Committee and respect the fact that the Committee concluded ultimately that there were insufficient planning grounds to turn down the application. Its decisions are subject to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate so it cannot capriciously ignore the published planning policies. Second, I understand that the authority is a joint owner of the site but legal advice is that the Council would be in breach of contract were it not to proceed to completion of the sale – if the decision is taken, by the doctors and the NHS, to go ahead with this move. Third, the offer of Councillor Dombey to act as a mediator. I still hope that will be taken up.
So the spotlight has to focus on the decision-taking processes in the NHS.
Councillor Honour and I have written to NHS England to remind them of their responsibilities in this matter and urge them consider alternatives to this decision.”
Here is the text of our letter to NHS England.
“Unsuitable Location for Proposed GP Surgery in Sutton
As Councillors for Sutton South Ward in the London Borough of Sutton we are deeply concerned at proposals to close two GP surgeries and replace them with a new medical surgery at a site unsuitable for many of our residents.
There is at present no GP surgery in our Ward, which has the highest proportion of residents aged over 70 of any Ward in the Borough of Sutton. Our residents use a number of local surgeries but many go to the surgery at Grove Road in the centre of Sutton and to the Belmont surgery, close to Belmont railway station. These are to close, under the proposals.
The proposed new medical centre is in Homeland Drive, at the site of the former Henderson hospital. However, the site is not sufficiently accessible for the elderly and those without a car. It is rated PTAL 1b, which means that it is not accessible to public transport. It is in fact at least 300 metres up a steepish inclined road that is dark and uninviting. Our GPs state that 75% of patients will use a car. The remainder are likely to be elderly, unable to drive a car, or on a low income. They also are likely to be amongst the most frequent patients at the surgery.
There are severe limitations on the use of dial-a-ride and taxicard, so use of these services is not an option for people who find it difficult to access public transport and this site.
The statistics on the population of the Ward illustrate the problem. Sutton South has much more sheltered housing, and more care homes than other parts of the Borough. 2.94% of Ward residents live in managed residential accommodation compared to a Borough average of 0.78%. Over 75 per cent of properties in Sutton South are flats, many of them single occupancy. 46.3% of households in Sutton South are single person households, with 15.5% occupied by people over 65. The population of the Ward is elderly.
Sutton South Sutton average National average
Over 65s 17.49% 14.32% 16.74%
Over 75s 10.62% 7.07% 7.96%
Over 85s 4.13% 2.1% 2.31%
Although 73% of residents in the Borough say they are ‘well connected’, 10% of respondents in Sutton South say “they have no one to turn to locally for help”, compared to a Borough average of 6%. This means that they would not have people to assist them with transport.
We therefore consider that the proposed site for the new GP surgeries does not meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our Ward and we would prefer a more accessible site.
From the information that we have received it does not appear that the GPs have considered the transport needs of their elderly patients, a growing demographic, who will need to use the surgery often, possibly as much as once a week for visits to the other services at the centre as well as their GPs. Many have said to us that they will need to change their doctor if this goes ahead.
In response to our concerns the developer of the site, Assura, has offered a community transport scheme. However, after close examination of this, it does not appear to be a practicable solution.
Once again the NHS, which declares that it is patient centred, is failing its patients by not taking account of their transport needs. This has been a major local issue in the abortive Better Services Better Value plans to change the status of our local hospital, St Helier.
It is by no means clear to us what the process is in the NHS to take a wider view of the optimum location of GP surgeries in the interests of the patients. However, we understand from evidence that NHS England gave to Sutton Council’s Scrutiny Committee last year that NHS England have a role. We would therefore like to meet you to discuss how you conside that these proposals meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents and your most needy patients.