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'Patent inequality' of Haverhill's health services needs to be addressed, says town council




Haverhill Town Council has resolved to call upon the health authorities and Health Secretary Matt Hancock to do more to improve the ‘inequality’ of health services currently provided in the town.

At an often impassioned extraordinary meeting held by the town council on Tuesday, councillors agreed what it regards as the most important issues that need to be addressed by West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS England in respect of primary healthcare in Haverhill.

At the meeting, Cllr Alan Stinchcombe gave a presentation on the state the GP services in Haverhill, something he has been studying over the past year.

Cllr Alan Stinchcombe outside the Haverhill Family Practice, where he is a registered patient Picture by Mark Westley
Cllr Alan Stinchcombe outside the Haverhill Family Practice, where he is a registered patient Picture by Mark Westley

Based on the most recent quarterly figures available from NHS Digital, Cllr Stinchcombe’s presentation said: “The 32,000-plus patients of Haverhill’s practices now have extremely limited access to a GP.”

The figures showed that in September 2019 GP provision in Haverhill had fallen by 59 per cent to 41 per cent of its 2012 value and that the town had 39 per cent of the average GP levels throughout the overall CCG area.

NHS Digital data showed that as of last September, there were 3.87 full time equivalent (FTE) GPs at the Clements and Christmas Maltings Practice and 3.69 at the Haverhill Family Practice.

Cllr Margaret Marks pointed out that as of Tuesday the Clements Surgery now had eight FTEs for 18,492 patients.

The main issues the town council wants addressed are:

1. A review of the GP and primary care services in Haverhill to establish whether the current commissioning meets statutory duties on reducing inequalities, ability to access health services and the patient experience.

2. A plan of action needs to be drawn up to address any shortfalls found by the review, setting a timetable for meeting objectives on achieving at least similar GP and primary care provision as the average across the CCG area.

3. Publish a schedule for the provision of an additional health facility (‘Health Hub’) to include community-based secondary health care such as local X-Ray and other diagnostic services appropriate for the population size of Haverhill and the town’s remoteness from a hospital, so Haverhill has equality of access to these type of services comparable to other large market towns within the CCG area.

4. Publish a plan to urgently address the patent inequality of mental health provision for Haverhill.

5. Publish a plan to address the lack of dental practitioners in Haverhill.

The town council also issued the following statement: “Haverhill Town Council unanimously wishes to state its public support for everyone in the NHS, who are working with insufficient resources.

“We ask that our MP and Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, must review the funding formula used by the NHS to ensure it is fair to all communities and that it provides the financial resource West Suffolk CCG needs for Haverhill.

“Until that is achieved, West Suffolk CCG must ensure that, whilst their ‘financial cake’ is too small for every community to have the slice they need, the slices should be fair, including for the people of Haverhill.

“If Haverhill is proving harder to provide for, then the town council stands supportive of the current efforts of the CCG and Suffolk GP Federation to deliver primary care but asks that more be done.

“We also call on the people of Haverhill to echo that support, condemn mean-spirited social media comments about services and to engage positively in efforts to improve efficiency, such as signing-up for My Care Record and e-Consult. Everyone benefits if we all pull together.

“For its part, the town council, as a leading partner in ONE Haverhill Partnership, commits to supporting the wellbeing agenda for the town, to help make Haverhill a healthier community.”

Town clerk Colin Poole added: “We will be writing to the CCG setting out in more detail the issues that we want addressed.

“However, I don’t think any of these will come as a surprise, nor should they be a million miles from the CCG’s own business plan.

“We know resources are scarce, but there is justified concern that when Haverhill, the fourth-largest town in Suffolk and second-largest town in West Suffolk CCG area, is compared like-for-like on health service provision, it comes up short against far smaller populations.

“Whatever the cause of that, we cannot and will not just shrug our shoulders and accept the situation.

“We have to fight our corner.”


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