Ruffley Slams Thurston GP Surgery Delay

Tuesday, 30 March, 2004

David Ruffley has written today to Peter Houghton, Chief Executive of the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge Strategic Health Authority, following news that there will be further delay in setting up a GP branch surgery at Thurston.

David said: 'I have been campaigning for a GP surgery at Thurston since I became MP for Bury St Edmunds in 1997. It is ridiculous that my Thurston constituents have to travel to Bury to see a doctor. This further delay is bad news but I will be doing all I can to minimise the slippage in the timetable that I was given by Suffolk West PCT.'

David's letter to Peter Houghton:

I am writing further to discussions I have had with the Suffolk West PCT and its plans to set up a Thurston branch surgery.

Thurston is one of the largest villages in my constituency yet it has no GP surgery. There has been a clear, sustained and justified demand from its residents for such a surgery for at least ten years. The case for a surgery has been consistently championed by County Councillor Sue Sida-Lockett, Parish Councillors and District Councillors over the years as well as myself as the local Member of Parliament.

We were all delighted to finally get confirmation that a decision had been made in principle last autumn by the Suffolk West PCT to go ahead with this project.

I have, therefore, been extremely concerned to see that a delay has arisen over the past month. It would appear that a new regime for implementing this decision has come into force. I am advised by Suffolk West PCT that 'The way in which PCTs access funding for primary care estate has changed as a consequence of the new GP contract. There is now a specific allocation at Strategic Health Authority level which PCTs may access for new surgery premises, providing these schemes meet the agreed criteria and are affordable within the overall allocation. … This revision to the process requires us to have a comprehensive primary care estate strategy which is currently being written.'

As a consequence of this there is now a delay in the proposed timetable for the building of a surgery in Thurston. I am advised that the earliest a decision can be made about the allocation of funding for a new surgery is in June 2004. Business cases would then be sought from interested parties, assuming a favourable decision is made- this is likely to be in July 2004 at the earliest. In August there would be notification to interested developers. That would mean, at the earliest, site work commencing in March 2005 with an opening date of a surgery of March 2006.

I would like you to confirm what we believe was agreed last autumn that a decision to go ahead with a surgery in Thurston still holds good and there will be no back tracking from this. I also seek confirmation that there will be no slippage in the timetable that I have been given by the Suffolk West PCT.

I look forward to your comments at the earliest possible convenience.