GP Provision: Pilsley

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:46 pm on 10th February 2020.

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Photo of Mark Fletcher Mark Fletcher Conservative, Bolsover 8:46 pm, 10th February 2020

Once again, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is an honour to speak under your chairmanship; fate seems to keep bringing us together. I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise this important constituency matter in this House.

During my maiden speech, Madam Deputy Speaker, you may recall that I invited you to visit many wonderful parts of my constituency. Pilsley was one of the places I mentioned, and of course I extend that invitation once again. Pilsley is a delightful village—or perhaps two villages, depending on who you speak to—with great charm and character. But the village is currently in a state of great anxiety due to the proposal to close the incredibly popular local surgery. This potential loss is what I wish to discuss tonight.

The future of the Pilsley surgery has been something of an ongoing affair for nearly three years. The surgery is run by Staffa Health. It is one of four that it runs in the region, and they are generally considered to be very good. I wish to say early on that I do not doubt the commitment of the staff of Staffa Health to deliver the best possible service, nor do I doubt their sincerity in their belief that this closure is a good move. That is not to say that I agree with them.

As I understand it, an initial proposal was put forward in 2017 by Staffa Health to close three surgeries, but that got dropped along the way. I will recap some of the events over the past year. On 1 May 2019, the practice identified the various stakeholders that it needed to discuss the planned closure with. On Monday 24 June 2019, Staffa Health wrote to patients, commencing a consultation to propose the permanent closure of Pilsley Surgery. The consultation ran for 60 days, until 23 August 2019.

As you will appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, I was elected in the early hours—around 5 am—of 13 December, some months after the consultation had closed. I feel a bit like I have won an FA cup final ticket, only to discover that I have turned up in injury time, because my involvement started last month. I received a letter via email on 14 January from Staffa Health informing me of its decision to close the surgery. I was given eight days’ notice before it was taken for a final decision to the NHS Derby and Derbyshire clinical commissioning group. I immediately wrote to Staffa Health, offering a meeting with the Secretary of State to explore other options. Similarly, I wrote to the clinical commissioning group, asking for a delay to any decision, and I met the amazing Sheila Baldwin, who I will mention more later on.

I think it would be helpful to set out the reasons given for this proposed closure. In the letter to patients dated 24 June 2019, Staffa Health said:

“Staffa Health provides a high degree of choice to our patients in terms of appointment type, location, time of day, day of the week and the ability to book ahead and on the day. Operating in this way over our four sites and providing effective GP cover is challenging. For some time the Practice has been experiencing increasing difficulty in sustaining clinical GP cover over four sites.”

On the face of it, this is about difficulties in recruiting and retaining GPs—a problem that many surgeries face.