Knutsford healthcare hangs in the balance as doctors appeal for support
The new PFI Health Centre, potentially to be located at the preferred Shaw Heath site, has predictably provoked furious reaction by Knutsfordians who wholeheartedly believe that a new privately financed super health care centre is not required.
Public anger was further fuelled after the PCT’s spokesperson’s somewhat guarded threat to the people of Knutsford that “The current quality of health care can not be guaranteed if the centre fails to go ahead.”
There does not appear to be any clarity over a suggested site for the current refuse and recycling centre. Knutsford’s waste collection services, like other towns and cities across the UK, has been reduced to only two pickups per month with additional recycling trucks clogging up the roads during rush hour at other points in the collection calendar.
More local residents are opting to use the recycling centre on Mobberley Road according to staff. Its elevated use directs comment towards its essential function within Knutsford’s residential recycling program. However, the Shaw Heath PFI preferred site was the location of the original refuse tip that needs an “estimated” £500,000 to detoxify the land before any construction work can begin.
As a whole, regular healthcare service users in Knutsford have been irritated by the potential increase in journey time, traffic issues that would beset the Mobberley Road location and the general inconvenience of placing the site on the edge of town, on a restrictive ancillary road that essentially feeds the small industrial estate and Longridge.
A number of business owners in the town, speaking to the Knutsford Times, were also concerned with the addition of “Concessions” in the new site and that it could essentially draw trade away from the town centre. A proposed cafe and commercial pharmacy are just two of the confirmed units to be located at the Privately Funded Super Health Care Centre.
Finally, the real anger is directed at a potentially steep increase to taxpayers in Knutsford as the new PFI Health Care Centre will require and additional £1,000,000+ per year of public money to fund the centre. With the lease running out on the existing Bexton road site and renewal and refurbishment costs simply too high to make viable sence in the medium to long term, is the new PFI health care super centre a forgone conclusion?
Today (2nd October) the three GP practices in Knutsford have re-affirmed their commitment to the plans for health services in the town. In an open letter the GPs set out their vision for health services, and encourage local people to support the proposals and make their comments during the consultation period.
OPEN LETTER TO PATIENTS REGISTERED AT KNUTSFORD SURGERIES
The Doctors of Toft Road, Manchester Road and Annandale surgeries feel it is time we clarified our views about the proposed new medical centre. The original idea was proposed to us by the Primary Care Trust (PCT) about 3 years ago.
Our initial reaction was mixed, and we have had many of the anxieties and concerns that have been expressed in the Guardian, and at the two public meetings held so far. We have, however, come down strongly in favour of the proposals because we feel they will provide much better medical services for the people of Knutsford.
The three practices currently work from converted houses that are not really fit for purpose. Each practice has their own particular problems which include old buildings, poor disabled access, steep stairs to upstairs consulting rooms, lack of both clinical and administration space, and parking.
We feel it is not feasible to try and modernise our current premises, and the cost would be prohibitive. The PCT need to modernise and re-provide the community hospital as well as local hospital beds from a purpose built building. The proposal to site our 3 practices and the Mobberley branch surgery in the same building is, we feel, a good one.
The benefits we can see include the following:
· Knutsford will get modern, purpose built premises that are both fit for purpose and fit for the future.
· There will be double the number of consulting rooms, more administration space, and larger waiting areas. This will allow us to provide our patients with better services.
· We will be sharing the same building as all the staff currently at the community hospital. This will allow better communication within the primary care team (district nurses, health visitors, midwives, physiotherapists etc).
· Access for the disabled and elderly will be excellent.
· Improved parking
· Blood tests and X-rays will be on the same site.
· All of the current facilities of the community hospital will be modern and on the same site. More facilities and services are planned by the PCT to reduce travel to other hospitals.
· An on site pharmacy will be very convenient for patients.
· An on site cafe will provide a good social facility.
· The developers promise a ‘landmark building’. They have certainly delivered this in many of their 160 projects around the country.
· Better meeting and training areas. These could be used by other groups out of hours.
· The building will meet all health, safety and environmental standards.
Change is rarely easy or popular and we feel this as much as anyone. We do, however, feel that we can address the main issues that have been raised by careful planning. These issues include:
· Seeing your own Doctor: The three practices intend to remain separate. The doctor you see and the services you get will be replicated in the new building.
· The site: We would have preferred a central site but after much analysis none of the options are suitable. Shaw Heath is the preferred site because it is a large site, in an area of need and of high population density. It is also deliverable.
· Accessibility: A vital part of the new building will be the provision of a better transport system. This will be a critical element in the next stage of the development.
· The tip: We have no wish to see this closed or moved out of Knutsford. Our plans were based on information that Cheshire East Council was planning to relocate this facility. If this proves not to be the case there is plenty of room without involving the tip footprint.
· The proposed new sports facilities on Longridge: This development will not compromise any existing plans for a sports development on the site. There is plenty of space on the Shaw Heath site and we will be delighted for the two facilities to be adjacent to each other.
We believe this opportunity for a substantial amount of money to be spent on Knutsford should be grasped. There is no ‘hidden agenda’ by the PCT, their main aim is to improve health care in the town. If we do not move forward then the PCT will simply spend the money elsewhere on similar schemes, and we will have missed an opportunity that will almost certainly not come along again for many years. Moving forward with the plan now will allow us all to benefit from high quality medical services provided from modern facilities that the people of Knutsford can be proud of.
We hope that our patients will join us in supporting the scheme.
Toft Road Surgery: Drs Arthur, Bayliss, Stephenson, Lawn and Giles
Manchester Road Medical Centre: Drs Holt, Reeves and Kearns
Annandale Medical Centre: Drs Mallon, Allen and Herd