Village GP surgery in the Fens could be rescued from scout hut

A village GP surgery in the Fens could be rescued from temporary accommodation including a scout hut.

The Terrington St John practice was moved into temporary accommodation after its new owners were unable to agree a deal with outgoing partners over buying the village’s health centre.

Peterborough-based primary care group First Health will move the practice from the village’s scout hut into portable buildings in December but are still looking for a long term solution.

Now it has emerged West Norfolk council could step in and compulsorily purchase the building.

Borough councillor Brian Long is putting forward a notice of motion at next Thursday’s full council meeting which could see the authority seek the necessary legal orders.

Mr Long said: “The doctors surgery is operating out of a scout hut in the village which is far from satisfactory.

“This facility and the temporary buildings due to arrive soon are not suitable for the long term - the scout hut doesn’t even have a landline telephone.

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“I will be putting forward the motion to ask the council to see what powers we can use to improve public wellbeing and bring the surgery back into use.

“This could mean a compulsory purchase order which would see someone independent from the council value the building and the owners would get that price.

“The council would then sell the building on so that the doctors surgery can operate there once more.

“We are some way off that conclusion but if that is what needs to happen then we need to get the wheels in motion now.”

Mr Long said he decided to put forward the motion after receiving complaints from some of the surgery’s 5,000 patients.

“The biggest concern I have been told about is people not being able to get through to the surgery on the telephone,” he continued.

“If people can’t get through when they need to then it’s really detrimental to these villagers.”

Pam Hardy, chairman of Terrington St John parish council, added: “The villagers feel we are being held to ransom. The doctors surgery is an amenity to the village and it is just standing there empty.”

South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss MP has given her support to the motion.

She said: “This whole situation has been unacceptable from the beginning. The use of a Scout hut is completely inappropriate.

“It is ridiculous that a fully operational medical facility lies redundant whilst patients have to make do with a hut that has no proper sanitation, no phone lines and little privacy. This is certainly not what I expect of a modern day health care system and I will be pressing NHS Norfolk to ensure this situation does not occur in the future.”Dr Luke Twelves, deputy medical director of First Health, said the portable temporary buildings are being put in place this weekend and should be open by the first week in December.

He said: “We have said right from the start we have always wanted to buy that site and we will always leave that door open. We also said we would work with the local population to deliver a long term solution. It would make sense to move into the existing surgery and we are disappointed not to be in there at the moment. We welcome anything that will help us deliver a long term solution.”

Ian Ayres, director of strategy and innovation at NHS Norfolk, added: “NHS Norfolk, like First Health, is keen to provide the residents of Terrington St John with the best possible medical care and we welcome any measures towards achieving this.”

Current opening times are 9am to 5pm, with the last GP appointment 4.30pm. The surgery can be contacted by calling 01945 880471 or 01553 828884.