Published: 05:00, 29 April 2014
| Updated: 07:43, 29 April 2014
A GP practice which has been thriving for 20 years is under threat of closure after the sudden death of its sole doctor.
Dr Medhat El-Faramawi passed away while on holiday in Egypt on April 6, leaving behind his wife and two sons.
NHS Kent and Medway boss Stephen Ingram is now considering closing Rainham’s Wyvill Close Surgery on May 9 and moving its 3,721 patients elsewhere, such as to the nearby Parkwood Health Centre, which has 7,000 patients already.
In a letter to Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti, he said it was an increasing national trend “for practice mergers to create more sustainable lists of about 10,000 people”.
But Stephen Harding, 53, who has been a patient at Wyvill for three years, said: “This surgery has been going since 1995, it is completely sustainable. Of course GPs from other surgeries will say they have room, more patients means they get more money, but that doesn’t mean the service is acceptable.”
He moved from Parkwood to Wyvill surgery three years ago, and if the merger goes ahead, he fears longer waits and a lack of continuous care. He said: “Not only would we be getting a lesser service there, but the extra pressure of serving us would mean patients already there will suffer, too.”
Mr Harding, of Long Catlis Road, Parkwood, said: “We will just keep as much pressure as we can on them until this is resolved.”
There are other doctors prepared to take over the practice, however, Mr Ingram did not address this option in his letter.
Dr Fras Jerew, who has temporarily stepped in at the Wyvill, said: “Dr El-Faramawi was a friend, and myself and Dr Vikrum Murthy were in discussion with him about joining his surgery as part-time partners until he retired.
It is a normal procedure among senior GPs to have phased introductions to the surgery system and patients before they are in the driving seat. Unfortunately destiny intervened.
“We have been informed about plans to disperse patients to nearby practices. However, it’s all been done behind closed doors with no public consultation.
“We weren’t a part of the picture, but we don’t want the surgery to close and are both happy to stay working here to keep it open.” The plans were made so quickly after Dr El-Faramawi’s death, his patients did not have time to sign a petition, which had been drawn up and put in the surgery, when they heard.
Tributes and flowers have been left outside the surgery for the late doctor.
One said: “Never forgotten, the best friend a family could ever wish for.”
Dr Jerew also paid tribute to Dr El-Faramawi, the man he regarded as a mentor, saying: “He was a very nice and kind person, who looked after a lot of people.
“I still have people coming in and telling me how sad they are he’s gone after all these years of service.”
Rehman Chishti, MP for Gillingham and Rainham, said: “I am saddened to hear of the death of Dr Medhat El-Faramawi who ran the GP surgery in Wyvill Close for many years, which has been an integral part of the local community.
“I understand that NHS England is considering the future of the practice and I have made representations, on behalf of residents, asking them to see if they can keep this popular surgery open.
“Residents are rightly concerned about its potential closure and NHS England must ensure that local patients continue to have access to the health services that they require.”
A spokesman for NHS England Kent & Medway said: “We extend our condolences to Dr El-Faramawi’s family and are aware of the high esteem in which he was held by his patients. We join them in their gratitude to him for the dedication he showed to the local community.
“Our priority is to ensure that patients currently registered at Wyvill Close Surgery can continue to access the full range of local GP services and we are working with practice staff to ensure help and support will be available to patients.
“We are bound by parliamentary regulations that state that in the event of the death of a single-handed GP, then the contract NHS England holds with them for services at their practice must come to an end. We have also been advised that the current building will no longer be available to use as a surgery.”
“NHS England has been working to swiftly secure alternative long-term arrangements for Wyvill Close patients and we will update them next week when a final decision has been made.”
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