One of my focuses in our area, as I made clear in my ‘Manifesto for South Northants’ at the last election, is working with local healthcare providers to improve the services available to residents, and to ensure that people can access as many of these as close to home as possible. A lot of this work takes place in the background, and involves supporting our fantastic GPs and their surgeries in continuing to provide the excellent levels of care for our growing population.
I am in regular contact with Dr Philip Stevens – our Locality GP Chair – as well as with the Chief Executives of Northamptonshire NHS Healthcare Foundation Trust and Nene NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, and frequently raise issues or concerns from individuals or communities. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on some of what we’ve been doing recently and, of course, I would be very happy to hear your thoughts on any of these, or if you have a particular concern that I haven’t covered here.
Many people will remember the old Brackley Cottage Hospital which closed some years ago, and which is much-missed by the town and surrounding villages. Not only did it provide a range of outpatient services closer to home – helping people to receive the care they need in the community – but it also had a number of intermediate step-down care beds to allow people recuperate closer to home. In January, I was delighted to officially launch the construction of the Cottage Hospital’s much-needed replacement, the new Brackley Medical Centre. The new building will include GP services, a pharmacy, 16 intermediate “step-down” care beds, x-ray facilities, a minor injuries unit and other services across three storeys and will be a huge asset to the town. I understand that progress is ahead of schedule with an opening scheduled for April next year; most of the piles are now complete and eagle-eyed observers should shortly see the walls beginning to go up.
I know from speaking with Dr Stevens and our county councillor for Brackley, Cllr Fiona Baker, that there have been continuing issues with the NHS 111 service for people in the town and surrounding area trying to access out-of-hours healthcare. Some residents, when dialling 111, have been told that they cannot go to the Horton for out-of-hours care and must instead either go to Daventry or Northampton. I have received assurances from Oxfordshire CCG that South Northants residents who wish to present to the Horton may continue to do so, and this has been reinforced to call handlers and staff at the hospital itself.
I have been meeting with the three Towcester GP surgeries over the last year to explore how we can improve medical services for the town, utilising the money provided by Persimmon as part of the contributions from its new development. Money is being made available at the end of this year, and the GPs are finalising their ‘vision paper’ for Towcester which they hope will see extended access, walk-in services, and similar expansion of outpatient services as in Brackley. I have recently written to Nene CCG to support the Towcester Medical Centre’s bid for funding for an extension of their surgeries in Towcester and Paulerspury; this will provide sufficient space to deliver primary care services to the expanding town and bring more services out of secondary care.
I met representatives from Roade Surgery, part of the Parks Medical Practice group, before Christmas to hear more about their plans for a new site. I wrote in support to Nene CCG at the time. I am very aware that the facilities at Roade have been rated as very poor and red-flagged by an independent report commissioned by the CCG, although I understand that further work may need to be done on their proposals as part of the Practice group’s wider provision in the area.
I continue to work closely with Victoria Prentis on ensuring that expectant local mothers have access to suitable and safe maternity options. A new body at Oxfordshire County Council – the Horton Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee – has been tasked with reviewing maternity provision at the Horton, and South Northamptonshire is represented by Cllr Adil Sadygov. Discussions are ongoing and the group is meeting regularly. You can read more details about their work on their website, and I have written to ask for an update from the JHOSC’s Chairman Cllr Arash Fatemian.
As ever, if anyone has any comments or questions about local healthcare, please do get in touch.