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Angry patients attended a public meeting on the proposed closure of the Sunlight Centre Surgery, Gillingham

By Rachel Dixon

More than 200 people attended a heated public meeting, on the proposed merging of GP surgeries.

It was held at the Sunlight Centre, home to the Sunlight Surgery, Richmond Road, Gillingham last night.

A proposal stating the surgery should be closed and merged with Balmoral Centre, The Pentagon and St Mary's Island Surgery, has been made by the Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) .

Patients and campaingers say save our Sunlight (3542800)
Patients and campaingers say save our Sunlight (3542800)

This comes as GP service provider contracts for surgeries across the Towns are coming to an end.

Patients, residents, staff and councillors, who were all desperate to have their views heard, filled the entrance hall, café, and corridors of the centre.

Three representatives from the Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, including its head, Stuart Jeffrey, attended to answer any questions.

Over 200 people attended the meeting last night (3542802)
Over 200 people attended the meeting last night (3542802)

Director for Primary Care, Tracy Rouse said: "Research shows you can deliver better care to 30-50 thousand people than you can in small pockets.

"We are planning to merge the four contracts over the sites at the Sunlight Centre, Balmoral Centre, The Pentagon and St Mary's Island Surgery and put them into one.

"The floor space at the Balmoral Centre is only 57% used we want to be able to utilise that to its full capacity.

(left to right) Sarah Vaux, Tracy Rouse and Stuart Jeffrey from Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (3543093)
(left to right) Sarah Vaux, Tracy Rouse and Stuart Jeffrey from Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (3543093)

"To encourage young doctors and nurses to come to Medway we need to put them in larger teams on smaller sites rather than the smaller isolated ones."

"No decision has been made yet, it will be made on August 29."

Patients raised a number of issues, all of which received loud encouragement and agreement.

Sunlight Centre, Richmond Road, Gillingham (3542900)
Sunlight Centre, Richmond Road, Gillingham (3542900)

Sunlight Centre Trustee Paul Clark said: "This decision is absolutely going to rip the heart out of Gillingham North ward.

"The CCG should have addressed this earlier, they must have known the contracts were going to end.

"In terms of access, two of the three biggest killers of Gillingham North Ward are respiratory related, and you expect them to walk half a mile up hill to the Balmoral Centre.
"This is one of the most deprived wards in the country, these people can't afford taxis and the bus service is spasmodic and expensive."

One lady told of how nurses at the Sunlight Centre talked her out of suicide and she worried the mental health services would decline.

Manager of next door Delmergate Pharmacy Jay Patel handed a petition to Stuart Jeffrey.

Delmergate Pharmacy manager Jay Patel hands the CCG a petition (3542798)
Delmergate Pharmacy manager Jay Patel hands the CCG a petition (3542798)

The petition titled"Save our sunlight" had almost 500 signatures collected in five days.

He said: "If the surgery goes, the pharmacy will go too."

The CCG assured everyone that the closure of the Sunlight Centre is not a done deal and that all comments will be taken on board.

Delmergate Pharmacy, Richmond Road, Gillingham (3542898)
Delmergate Pharmacy, Richmond Road, Gillingham (3542898)

Patients who want to express their views on the proposals should email mccg.primarycare@nhs.net.
Another public meeting focusing on DMC Branch Surgery Twydall is on Wednesday, August 15 at Holy Trinity Church, Twydall Lane, Gillingham.

People should arrive at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.

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