Doctors could be under pressure if changes to surgery boundaries are not implemented

The Brent Area Medical Centre on the B3140 Brent Road In East Brent.

The Brent Area Medical Centre on the B3140 Brent Road In East Brent. - Credit: Google Maps

Several Somerset doctors’ surgeries could be placed under greater pressure if plans to change a practice boundary are not properly implemented.

The Brent Area Medical Centre in East Brent currently caters for a large number of patients in the villages between Cheddar, Highbridge and Weston.

After legal issues came to light, the practice has applied to the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to amend its practice boundaries – which would affect which patients can register for its services.

But the CCG has pushed back a decision until the surgery can provide evidence that other nearby practices would not be met with an unfeasible rise in new patients from any changes.

The Brent Area Medical Centre lies on the B3140 Brent Road, a short distance from the busy A370 to Weston and the A38 between Cheddar and Highbridge.

In 2018, it emerged that the surgery was using a different practice boundary to the one detailed in its official NHS contract – with further investigations revealing it had been using this different information since 1992.

Tanya Whittle, the CCG’s deputy director for contracting, told a meeting of its commissioning committee that officers were “proactively working with the practice to resolve the matter.”

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The surgery applied in July to finally change the boundary, arguing this would allow it to continue providing valuable services while focussing its attention on areas with high levels of deprivation and 'social need'.

However, implementing this change has been delayed to ensure that other neighbouring GP surgeries would not experience  a sudden spike in demand from patients having to re-register.

Ms Whittle explained in her written report: “The application included evidence of engagement with Highbridge and Cheddar medical centres; however, it did not include evidence of engagement with Axbridge or Burnham and Berrow medical centres, which are the other two practices who overlap Brent’s boundary.

“Given ongoing concerns regarding sustainability at Burnham and Berrow, this was noted as a concern, and we have agreed to defer a decision based on a need for further information.

“The Brent practice has been asked to submit evidence that they have engaged with the other medical centres, and that the change will not create additional pressure on the practices.”

Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre has experienced a 27 per cent rise in the number of patients registered there between July 2020 and July 2021.

Staff shortages and the pressures of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic has led the CCG to impose a 'temporary list closure' on the practice – meaning any new patients can be refused on a case-by-case basis.

Ms Whittle said the Brent surgery’s boundaries would be reconsidered by the committee at a later date.

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