Berkhamsted’s four GP surgeries could soon be merged to become one super ‘Health Hub’ offering a wider range of facilities on the doorstep of existing patients.
Letters have been sent by practice managers at Boxwell Road, Milton House, Manor Street and Gossoms End doctor’s surgeries to the area’s councillors in a bid to drum up support for the scheme, which could reduce impact on neighbouring A&E services as well as prevent patients from having to travel to Hemel Hempstead or Watford hospitals for certain tests, monitoring and diagnosis.
It is hoped that co-operation between the four practices would lead to improved efficiency, extended surgery hours and easier access to both doctors and nurses, as well as the possibility of providing minor surgery and injury treatment facilities.
While the proposal is in the very early stages, the backing of local authorities is being sought to help identify a potential location in Berkhamsted for the site.
Boxwell Road Surgery’s practice manager Pete Lloyd said: “We see this as a very good idea – our present surgeries are ageing and we are trying to do something that will benefit all the patients in the town.
“The aim of the project will be to deliver as many services locally to avoid people having to travel to Hemel Hempstead or further afield, and to expand the number of services available to patients here.
“The great challenge will be the final site. This is something we have developers working on for us – so far there are some options being looked at but it would be too early to mention anything.
“If there is any spare space in the area it seems flats are built on it, but this is about saying healthcare is a priority as well, and we want to be considered for somewhere.
“With the general election coming up, there are a lot of hurdles to overcome but it will be our hope to deliver a better service locally.”
No formal funding bid has been made at this stage to NHS England’s Primary Care Infrastructure Fund, but the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed it supports developments in primary care which will help to increase the services that are available to local people.
It is at the very early stages, but it will, without any doubt at all, improve the quality of healthcare for people in Berkhamsted. The big problem is location, location, location.Tom Kerr, practice manager at Manor Street Surgery
A spokesman for the group said: “We look forward to learning more about the plans of the four GP practices in Berkhamsted as they develop.”
Tom Kerr, who has been practice manager at Manor Street Surgery for almost 19 years and is due to retire this month, said: “Our difficulty is that Berkhamsted is a very popular town and any sites that become available are often snapped up for residential properties. We want to find a suitable location that is convenient for patients – it needs to be within the town.
“We envisage a comprehensive primary care facility incorporating all sorts of things we don’t have the opportunity to include now.
“It is at the very early stages, but it will, without any doubt at all, improve the quality of healthcare for people in Berkhamsted.
“The big problem is location, location, location.”
Garrick Stevens, East Ward representative on Berkhamsted Town Council, has welcomed the initiative. He said: “I believe that we do need medical and care services that are better integrated than at present. We certainly need ways to avoid visits to A&E except in the case of real emergencies.
“If more medical facilities and services can be provided locally we could also cut out a lot of difficult journeys to hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and Watford for routine testing.”
County councillor for Tring Nick Hollinghurst, who lives in Wigginton and is registered with one of the Berkhamsted surgeries, confirmed he would seek to support the practices’ aspirations and pledged to contacting the authority and other county councillors to see if they can help.
If built, the hub is expected to feature improved access and parking, and provide a purpose-built, modern alternative to the converted homes many of the existing surgeries are based in.