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Doctor's surgery in Clare announces significant reduction in opening hours due to shortage of GPs

Residents have criticised a decision to reduce the opening hours of a doctors’ surgery in Clare from next month.

The news was announced on the Hardwicke House group practice website this week, with the decision blamed on a shortage of GPs.

From January 27, Clare’s Stonehall surgery and dispensary in Nethergate Street will only be open on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 8.30am to 2pm.

Stonewall Doctors Surgery, Nethergate Street, Clare Picture by Mark Westley. (26728870)
Stonewall Doctors Surgery, Nethergate Street, Clare Picture by Mark Westley. (26728870)

It will close all day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and from 2pm to 6pm on Fridays.

Patients are being advised, if necessary, to go to any of the four other surgeries in the group practice, which are based in Sudbury, Bures and Great Cornard.

Clare resident Val Phillips said she had written to the practice manager and urged other residents to do the same. She gave details on the Facebook noticeboard page for the town, called Our Town Clare.

She said: “Clare has a significant proportion of elderly residents who may be unable to travel beyond Clare.

“Public transport links from Clare are very poor. Hardwicke House (Sudbury) will now be our nearest group surgery on the days that Stonehall is closed.

“It is nine miles from parts of Clare and almost impossible to reach by public transport. Some patients using Stonehall come from surrounding villages and it would be even more difficult for them to get to Hardwicke.

“My own mother is 91; we would find it very difficult to get her to Hardwicke.”

She said that she appreciated there was a national shortage of GPs but did not understand why Stonehall surgery was the only one to be affected in the group. In addition, there was no indication that a patients’ forum group set up two years ago had been notified of the service changes.

In a statement, the Hardwicke House group practice said it had tried unsuccessfully for months to recruit for the positions of two GPs who had recently left the practice.

The decision had, therefore, been “reluctantly” made to reduce the opening hours at Clare surgery.

A statement said: “Unfortunately, this has reduced the amount of GP availability that can safely be accommodated across our five surgeries to an acceptable level.

“The practice has relied on locum support and additional hours being offered by other existing GPs to support the shortfall, which is not sustainable.

“In light of these operating issues, the partners will continue to look for new GP applicants. Meanwhile, these changes will remain in place until further notice.”

The group practice said it realised the reduction in opening hours at Clare may impact some patients and staff, and would do its “utmost to minimise any inconvenience to the care provided to each and every patient”.

Reacting to the news on the town’s Facebook noticeboard, Carol Goodchild said: “This is such bad news. Clare is expanding but the service is getting smaller. We can’t get to Hardwicke House on public transport.”

Amanda Gee added: “The only people to blame is the Government. They need to put a lot more money into health services and the NHS.”

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