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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt's response after closure of Folkestone East Family Practice

By Victoria Chessum

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has responded to care concerns in Kent following the closure of a GP surgery with 5,000 patients.

The Folkestone East Family Practice in Dover Road, Folkestone, will shut for good on Wednesday, November 1.

The closure has been blamed on the national shortage of GPs and comes after no one took up the offer of becoming a doctor at the practice in a year of advertising the position.

The practice will be closing
The practice will be closing

Patients have responded to the news with fury - and there is now a petition circulating in a bid to keep it open.

Conservative parliamentary candidate for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins has also penned a letter to Mr Hunt detailing his concerns.

Mr Hunt responded: "If we are back in government after the General Election we will make it a priority to get to the bottom of this.

The practice shuts in November
The practice shuts in November

"General Practice in this country is the backbone of our NHS and we will ensure your local GPs have the appropriate resources, and that all of your constituents can count on a good and improving local service.

"We would not allow local people in Folkestone to go without access to this critical service.

"Indeed, as today's manifesto sets out, we have plans to further improve access to GP services, including at evenings and weekends."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Christopher Lewis, practice manager at Sandgate Road Surgery and Folkestone East Family Practice, said: “The workload for all GPs has increased in recent years.

"The GPs that care for patients at Sandgate Road and Folkestone East surgeries have tried to recruit more doctors to join them to replace doctors who have left or retired.

“Despite advertising for more than a year both nationally and internationally, owing to the national shortage of GPs wanting to join partnerships, no applications have been received.

“There is insufficient medical capacity for the two practices to safely maintain services for the future, therefore they have reluctantly been forced to cease providing services to patients at Folkestone East Family Practice from November.”

MP Damian Collins Picture: Gary Browne
MP Damian Collins Picture: Gary Browne

A spokesman for NHS South Kent Coast CCG said: “Our priority is to ensure all patients from Folkestone East Family Practice have ongoing access to local GP services following the decision of the practice to end its contract to provide services from November 1.

“The practice has advised us that it has had significant challenges in recruiting enough GPs to safely maintain services for the future, and has therefore decided to consolidate its workforce at Sandgate Road Surgery.

“We have written to the practice’s patients to reassure them we are working to secure arrangements for their care after that date.

“Patients do not need to do anything now – services will continue at the practice until it closes.

“We will write to patients as soon as we have confirmed arrangements for their future care and will include advice on how to register with a new GP practice if this is necessary.

“All feedback will be taken into account in reaching a final decision about patients’ future care.”

For more information, people can email skcccg.primarycare@nhs.net or phone 03000 424700.

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