A GP has revealed how she fought to retain a vital medical practice for more than 4,000 patients after its closure was announced.
Dr Joanna Elizabeth Bailey has been a partner of Mill Stream Medical Centre in Storrington for more than 20 years and was ‘distressed’ to learn her practice will be closed by the Surrey and Sussex Area Team (a local arm of the NHS) this month.
The 58-year-old claims that the practice fell into a ‘poor financial state’ during her suspension over alcohol related issues.
Dr Bailey told the County Times this week: “We are about to be closed down by the Surrey and Sussex Area Team which means more than 4,000 patients will have to find an alternative practice.
“I care about the patients, that’s why I’m so distressed. I could have walked away from this last week, but I’m not going to do that.
“They’re really nice people and they deserve a good service in their area.
“I put in £100,000 of my own money just to keep it going.”
The purpose-built practice is based next to the library in North Street, Storrington.
Dr Bailey joined the practice in partnership with another GP under the authorisation of the General Medical Service (GMS) and the Surrey and Sussex Area Team (SSAT).
However, she claimed that during a bout of depression she turned to alcohol.
In January 2014 she was convicted of a drink-drive offence and banned from the road for two years.
“I became depressed and ill. I’ll put my hand up and say alcohol became an issue. I was suspended by the SSAT in 2012 and it gave me time away while they investigated.”
After a two year absence, Dr Bailey claimed she returned to find that the centre was struggling financially.
“The practice was in a poor financial state when I came back, because I did a lot of the money generating work.
“We also do QOF (Quality and Outcomes Framework) where we have to achieve targets and get points. Points mean prizes - that’s how general practices are funded.
“In my absence the achievements we made for QOF were poor.”
Dr Bailey said she started negotiations for Mill Stream to join forces with another medical practice in a bid to keep it afloat.
But she claimed that SSAT’s senior director served a letter of the centre’s imminent closure just a day before she was expected to meet with the NHS authority to discuss matters.
“They wanted to talk about the breach and the future of the practice.
“I truly thought that was good because we could discuss my proposals for a new partner, but now they’ve said they’re going to close it down.
“It’s horrendous. They seem totally uninterested in what it will mean for patients.
“It’s so unnecessary. It’s not an unsafe practice and we’re in the midst of making moves to make sure it will merge with a proper partner.”
Dr Bailey claimed that the alternative for patients could mean travelling to other towns and villages.
“Now they will have to flog it over to Pulborough, Billingshurst or Steyning.
“There are lots of elderly people here who have chronic, ongoing conditions and need to come in for bloods,” she said.
The NHS confirmed in a statement that the centre is due to close on May 31.
A full update on the story will be in next week’s County Times out Thursday May 15.
Will you be affected by the closure of Mill Stream Medical Centre in Storrington? Have you tried to register at an alternative practice? What has been your experience? Let us know.