Population growth in and around Horsham has led to soaring numbers of patients registered with GP practices in the area.
Some surgeries have put a temporary halt on taking on new patients. But health officials say that creating new small-scale surgeries close to new developments is ‘not a sustainable solution.’
Instead medical practices are being encouraged to work together to share resources and ‘increase efficiency.’
And as part of the proposals it is planned to develop Horsham Hospital into a primary care ‘medical hub.’
Meanwhile, a number of people in the Horsham area are complaining about difficulties in obtaining GP appointments.
At a meeting of Horsham District Council’s Social Inclusion and Health Sub-Committee in November, concerns were raised about current capacity, but members were told that there was ‘some GP capacity, with some surgeries actively recruiting’.
In a report it was stated: “Some surgeries have stopped taking on new patients”, but it was said this was “a temporary measure.”
Figures from NHS England show the numbers of patients registered with GP practices in the Horsham area have grown sharply over the past three years.
One GP practice - Courtyard Surgery - has seen a 15.9 per cent increase in the number of patients there since 2013. Another - The Village Surgery at Southwater - has seen an 8.7 per cent increase in patients in the past three years. Park Surgery, Horsham, has seen the numbers of patients registered grow from 23,110 in 2013 to 25,557 last year - an increase of 6.2 per cent.
Meanwhile proposals have been put forward to develop Horsham Hospital into a primary care ‘medical hub’. They include an extension of services provided by the hospital’s minor injuries unit.
An expansion of the hospital’s phlebotomy service has already been made and musculo-skeletal services - treatments for muscle and joint conditions - are being improved along with services for rheumatoid patients.
The changes are part of a strategy by the Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group which is responsible for planning. monitoring and paying for healthcare.
One of the key aims is to develop Horsham Hospital into a hub which, officials say, “would offer a more integrated service, including primary care.”
Proposals in an NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ could also include the merging of practices to form a ‘federal model where staff and services are shared across a wider area creating ‘super practices’ and absorbing GP services into hospitals.
The use of Horsham Hospital as a care hub is a key part to the Clinical Commissioning Group’s provisional strategy, according to information given to the Horsham Council’s health sub-committee.
A spokeswoman for NHS England, south east, said: “GP practices are responsible for managing their services in a way that meets the needs of their patients, but we know that general practice, like other parts of the NHS, is under real pressure.”
She said the Royal College of GPs and other GP representatives were working on plans to stabilise and transform general practice services, to improve access to services for patients and to invest in new ways of providing primary care.