Surgery may not accept new patients 'until 2023'

Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre, in Love Lane, Burnham

Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre, in Love Lane, Burnham - Credit: Google Maps

A Somerset doctors’ surgery may not be accepting any patients until January 2023 as it struggles to combat staff shortages.

Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre lies on the B3140 Love Lane, just over the road from the town’s community hospital and a short walk from the town centre and seafront.

The surgery has experienced a huge increase in demand for its services over the last 18 months, and its ability to respond to this has been hampered by non-covid staff sickness and the timings of annual leave.

The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which decides how NHS resources are allocated across the county – announced in September 2021 that it would be restricting new patients from registering with the practice in a bid to ease this pressure.

Health bosses have now confirmed that these restrictions will be in place until at least January 2023 – meaning people moving to Burnham-on-Sea will have to register with a practice in a neighbouring town or village.

An update on the situation came before the CCG’s primary care commissioning committee when it met virtually on Thursday morning (March 10).

Under the restrictions, all new patients wishing to register will be handled on a case-by-case basis, rather than simply being added to the surgery’s list.

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Even if they live in the immediate vicinity, patients may only be able to register if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

A relative is already registered with the surgery
There has been a “breakdown of patient relationship with a neighbouring practice”, meaning they cannot be treated there
They must live north of the current practice boundary, meaning there is no other coverage available within the county of Somerset (i.e. excluding the North Somerset area, which is governed by a separate CCG)

The practice has had a 27 per cent increase in patient contacts from July 2020 to July 2021.

Those wishing to register with a GP will have to approach a surgery in neighbouring Highbridge or travel further afield to Axbridge, Brent, Cheddar or Wedmore.

Tanya Whittle, deputy director of contracting, told the committee: “We continue to have regular meetings with the practice to develop its sustainability plans going forward, and with the neighbouring practices.

“At the moment there is a handful of refused registrations, approximately one a week – though last week there were none. We haven’t heard of challenges of people being able to register elsewhere.”