An under-pressure doctors’ practice hopes its future will finally be secured by building a new medical centre on its existing site with the additional land required being provided by the church.
The 25 year old Glebe Surgery in Storrington has struggled to find available space to manage thousands of extra patients since a neighbouring practice, Mill Stream Medical Centre, was closed by NHS England in May 2014.
The Mill Stream Medical Centre was bought by Horsham District Council after the practice was closed. While there were initial talks about expanding into this site with its size constraints this proved to be financially unviable.
The Glebe Surgery has been forced to use a portable building and now has permission for another as it simply does not have sufficient room to continue to provide all its services. The new portable building will be installed in the car park next to the first at the end of April.
Now the Diocese of Chichester has said it will provide Glebe Surgery with the land it requires for a multi-million medical centre, subject to planning approval being received for a wider scheme on the adjacent Glebe Field that will include new homes and public open space.
Dr Keir Newsom said: “We are desperate. Using NHS standards, we are about 60 per cent undersized for the number of patients we now have – which is more than 11,500 and predicted 12,500 by the end of 2016.
“We will always provide core services but if this situation continues, we are at risk of not being able to provide many of the extra services we do now, for example minor operative procedures, joint injections, coil fitting and so on.
“It is standing room only in the waiting room a lot of the time. We’ve just taken on a new health care assistant but simply don’t have the room to have her here as much as we would like.”
Dr Newsom, the practice senior partner, said Glebe Surgery prided itself on its services and relationship with its patients.
He said: “We know them very well and they know us. It’s something we have fought tooth and nail to maintain since the Mill Stream Medical Centre closed and our numbers increased by almost a third in a very short time.
“Patient provision has not been affected and it never will be but before Mill Stream closed, most of our patients could be seen on the day - understandably the waiting time can be up to a week for non-urgent cases now.
“We hit every target for urgent access – anybody who wants to be seen the same day is and that has to continue. I like to think we will work and work and work until the job’s done, but realistically there will come a point when we can’t go on.
“We are happy to go anywhere there is a site but the ideal for our patients is where we are now. If we have to move to the periphery of Storrington, transport will be an issue for many as links here are not good, including those who drive to the surgery from the surrounding villages.
“The glebe land would allow us to develop a fit-for-purpose medical centre which fits with the Governmental five-year forward plan, which is to provide as many services as possible within the community to avoid patients having to go to hospital.
“The potential is huge – a centre of excellence for the community to be proud of. We would be able to expand minor surgery and provide services such as near patient medical imaging, clinics such as cardiology or rheumatology to name but a few and potentially a hub for community health and social care services. This proposal also has the support of the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group.’’
The development would be a joint venture between Medical Centre Developments (MCD), Millwood Designer Homes. and the Diocese of Chichester.
MCD would build and own the new surgery and is an established developer of primary health care premises. NHS England would provide the rent to allow the Glebe practice doctors to work from the building.
MCD specialises in building GP surgeries and is currently working on the transformation of Holy Trinity Church, Hove, into a three-floor practice with a pharmacy. It has carried out similar developments in Arundel, Selsey and Goring.
Director Nigel Ford said the Storrington proposal would provide a “fantastic community asset”.
The two-storey medical centre would be three times the size of the current surgery to cater for demand.
Mr Ford said: “It will cope with all the Glebe and Mill Stream patients and also predicted rising numbers in the future.
“This will be a fantastic, state-of-the-art facility, not just for the people of Storrington but for the surrounding area as well.”
The 15,000 sq ft premises, which will be environmentally sustainable, will have some 20 consulting rooms and four treatment rooms plus a pharmacy.
Mr Ford said: “You will be able to walk straight from the waiting room into the pharmacy. There will also be more parking than there is now. Presently the parish church is inaccessible to wheel-chair users and additional parking spaces will allow improved access to the church and also better access for church weddings and funerals.
“Obviously it will be more modern than the present building but we are not planning great swathes of glass as we want it to fit into the area.’’
Jeff Elliott, deputy managing director of Millwood Designer Homes, said his company was selected by the Diocese for the “enabling” housing part of the plans because it has experience and a good track record in building in rural and small town locations.
He said: “We are also used to working with communities. We have an open mind about what goes on this site and have put forward two possible proposals so we can give people a choice.”
One is for a higher density scheme, potentially about 30 homes, which could include some retirement housing.
The other is for 16 two, three and four-bedroom houses. Mr Elliott said: “They will be high quality homes in a cottage style to fit in with the surroundings. The quality will be as high as any people are likely to see in Storrington.”
Historically, Church-owned glebe land was rented out for a “tithe” and this money was used to support the mission and ministry in local parishes.
But today, glebe land usually earns the Church just a few hundred pounds each year from agricultural tenancies, the return not even covering the maintenance costs of fencing.
Guy Leonard, consultant for the Diocese of Chichester, said: “We cannot just sell it for any kind of development, which is why a proposal from Tesco many years ago failed. We are not aggressive developers and as part of the proposal we would dedicate part of the land as open space.
“Obviously there will be some people who don’t want housing there but to fulfil the Glebe measure and Charities Act requirements, the Diocese cannot just sell a part of the Glebe for surgery use. It has to be seen to obtain the best commercial value in any disposal of land. This proposal, which has taken many months to reach this stage, will fulfil these requirements.’’
The Glebe Surgery, MCD and Millwood are now displaying an outline of the plans in the Glebe Surgery to gauge the views of patients.
This will be followed by a public exhibition at Ravenscroft Guide and Community Centre, Browns Lane, Storrington on 21/4/16 2-5pm and 23/4/16 10am-1pm when villagers and other interested parties will be invited to comment.
It is likely a planning application would be submitted to Horsham District Council a few weeks after that.
What do you think? Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
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