Chichester doctors’ surgery to expand

Thursday, 24 March 2022 07:26

By Karen Dunn - Local Democracy Reporter

Expansion plans for a Chichester doctors’ surgery at full capacity have been criticised due to questions about whether its premises is fit for purpose.

Last week Chichester District Council signed off on its five-year, Infrastructure Business Plan which allocated £420,000 of developer contributions to Langley House Surgery in West Street.

But at Tuesday’s meeting, Robin Kidd, from the West Walls Residents’ Association, asked if the money represented a ‘sound investment of public money by this council’.

Although describing how the surgery provided excellent healthcare, he highlighted how its premises was a Grade II listed building and there were questions about whether the facilities would be fully fit for purpose in line with NHS standards.

He also asked why no GP surgery would be provided at the Minerva Heights development, meaning the new residents would most likely have to drive into the city centre to use health facilities there.

Susan Taylor (Con, The Witterings), the council’s cabinet member for planning, described how Langley House was full and all the other practices in Chichester were close to capacity as a result of growth in the area.

She said: “There is therefore an urgent need to provide enhanced capacity in order to serve the needs of patients in Chichester city.”

Although the West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had originally identified the need for a new medical centre at Minerva Heights, after discussion with local GPs ‘it was clear that there was no interest from them in relocating so in 2020 the CCG changed its strategy towards expanding the existing practices subject to obtaining planning permission’.

Mrs Taylor felt this was a faster way of meeting the urgent need and also represented better value for money as a new centre at Minerva Heights was estimated to cost £4.5m, of which £1.75m would have come from Community Infrastructure Levy contributions.

The CCG was also intending to expand Southbourne’s surgery as well as relocate the Cathedral practice to a new premises in the Southern Gateway scheme.

She added: “GP practices are private businesses who contract their services to the NHS and can’t be forced to operate in a particular location regardless of how sustainable that might be.”

But she believed Langley House to be a sustainable location to serve residents to the west side of the city.

However many opposition councillors disagreed. Kate O’Kelly (LDem, Harting) had personal experience of working at Langley House and described it as a ‘deeply inappropriate building to be a GP practice’.

Martyn Bell (Ind, Chichester Central) questioned whether four new consulting rooms would increase capacity as what was required were extra doctors. He added: “Extending Langley House is not the answer to the patient list problems.”

Christopher Page (Ind, North Mundham and Tangmere) highlighted the inadequacy of parking facilities at Langley House, how he couldn’t contact his own surgery and the fact the Southern Gateway project was years away.

He said: “This just illustrates a terrible defect in our planning system in that we can’t consider refusing developments if we have no medical provision.”

Meanwhile Richard Plowman (LDem, Chichester North) suggested Langley House was the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as GP provision overall was ‘insufficient’.

He added: “The CCG came up with a solution which I do not think is adequate for our needs here in Chichester. It’s the whole system which is at fault.”

Officers described how councillors could not simply delete this one item of spending at this point and to refuse the IBP completely ran the risk of significant delay to a range of important infrastructure projects.

John-Henry Bowden (LDem, Chichester West) felt it was a ‘flawed project’ and objected to the procedure ‘that has carried us to this point’.

The plan was approved by 22 votes to one, with seven abstentions.

Both Langley House Surgery and the CCG have been approached for comment.

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