Published: 14:00, 13 January 2018
Tom Tugendhat insists the closure of a doctor's surgery in East Peckham "is not a sign that the village is dead".
Patients were told earlier this week that the Woodlands Branch Surgery, which has served residents for more than three decades, will finally shut for good in March despite intense campaigning from the Tonbridge and Malling MP and the parish council to keep it open.
Villagers were first warned the practice could close back in 2015 when health chiefs said the building on Old Road was not fit for purpose, but failure to find some £250,000 in funding means hundreds of patients will soon have to travel into Paddock Wood for appointments.
Conservative MP Mr Tugendhat said: "I'm obviously extremely disappointed because it's an important local asset used by a lot of people.
"I'm particularly concerned about the most vulnerable who can't get around by car so I'm now pushing the clinical commissioning group [which buys and plans local healthcare] to look at what they can do to help patients get to Paddock Wood.
"If they're going to remove the surgery, they've got to allow patients to get to the new one.
"The parish council have been absolutely outstanding and have done everything they can and more and we would not have got this far without them.
"But the reality is £250,000 is a lot of money and while we looked at a number of ideas, including using the village hall, sadly we haven't been able to make it work."
The MP has long warned of rural communities becoming dormitories but rejected the suggestion the closure could drive people away from choosing to live in East Peckham.
"It is still a fantastic village with a great community and plenty to offer," he said. "The surgery closing is very disappointing but it is not a sign that the village is dead."
More than 850 people signed a petition set up by the parish council - which offered to pledge £100,000 towards a surgery in the village - against the proposed closure.
Ian Ayres, accountable officer at the CCG, said: "We understand how valued this branch of the surgery is and have explored every option available to retain it, including considering potential funding from the parish council.
"The closure of the surgery was first proposed in 2015, when its premises were found not to comply with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) guidelines on a number of areas.
"The investment the practice requires is much higher than initially anticipated and it has been decided, in agreement with the practice and Parish Council, that the branch surgery of Woodlands Medical Practice in East Peckham will close from March 31, 2018.
"Patients will be notified of the changes and will continue to have access to a full range of primary medical services from the practice’s main site, the Woodlands Medical Centre in Paddock Wood.”
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