June 15, 2017
Tonight: Public meeting to be held on health cuts in Burnham-On-Sea

A public meeting is to be held in Burnham-On-Sea this week for residents to air their views about health provision following the news that vital Warfarin blood testing is being withdrawn at the town's medical centre due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.

As first reported here by, Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre has written to patients stating that it has been unable to recruit new staff to replace several of its doctors and nurses who have recently retired - and that it has "to concentrate resources on providing essential general practice services."

Therefore, from July 1st, the crucial Warfarin blood testing and management service is being withdrawn and patients have been advised to use other medical centres instead.

A public meeting is to be held at 7pm this Thursday, 15th June, at the BAY Centre in Cassis Close, Burnham-On-Sea to discuss changes to healthcare provision in the
Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge area.

Organised by Unite Somerset Community Branch and Bridgwater Trades Council, the meeting will be open to all.

A spokesman told "There will be a chance for local people to voice their concerns about recent service closures as well as to build a campaign to oppose any future healthcare cuts."

"On Saturday 3rd June many Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre patients, who take the anticoagulant drug Warfarin, received a letter telling them that the CCG has decided to close the Warfarin Clinic provided at the surgery from 30th June. The letter told them that they would either have to change to a different drug, or change their GP surgery."

"This news has been shocking, not only to the patients concerned, but also to their families, friends and carers. Many of the patients who received this letter will have complex health needs, and some may be quite vulnerable."

"The letter will have caused stress and anxiety to many. Many of the patients will have experienced considerable worry while waiting for the surgery to open on Monday morning. The letters were sent out on Friday 2nd June."

"In the Burnham-On-Sea area the choice of surgery is limited, most patients will only have a choice of Highbridge Medical Centre or Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre. Some patients will have very good reasons for not wanting to change."

"The closure of the Warfarin service at Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre comes after a series of other changes to local healthcare provision. The secretive 'Sustainability and Transformation Plan' that is currently under development is likely to result in more cuts to local services."

Burnham & Berrow Patient Participation Group says it is also worried about the changes. Its spokesman told "Very vulnerable patients with absolutely no choice other than to use this service for what could prove to be life threatening situations, have been told by letter that they will need to register at an alternative GP Surgery to get this service in the future. These patients have effectively less than four weeks notice because of the cessation of this provision by Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre."

"Negotiations and discussions have obviously carried out below the radar, it would seem for almost a year, with even the Patient Participation Group being kept completely in the dark until Friday 2nd June when the Management Partner Mrs Debbie Hale phoned two members. There appears to have been no thought for patients' peace of mind, many of whom are elderly, relying at times on dedicated carer support. These patients will have difficulty coming to terms with this and changing to another medical practice. Some patients have been taking Warfarin for over twenty years."

The partners at the Burnham and Berrow Medical Centre said in their letter: "Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the authority that plans and funds local health services, and they are responsible for ensuring that people on Warfarin are able to get the testing and supervision they need. Not all GP practices offer this service, and in one location in the county a different GP practice does this for a nearby practice."

"In July 2016 we gave notice to the Somerset CCG, that due to significant changes within our Practice that we would discontinue provision of this service from January 2017. This decision was not taken lightly by the Practice and we have looked at all other options to enable us to continue with the service. To give the CCG more time to find a suitable provider, we have continued (with the help of an excellent Locum nurse funded by the CCG) to provide this service for our patients until the end of June, but with holidays approaching this is not sustainable."

"Despite trying very hard for several months and having detailed discussions with several different potential providers, Somerset CCG has not been able to find anyone to take on provision of this service for Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre patients. With regret, it has been agreed that anyone who needs to continue to take Warfarin will need to register with a different GP practice so that they can provide you with your essential blood testing and meet your future health care needs. This is not the outcome anyone would have wished and is disappointing for all concerned."

"Whilst we have discussed the potential for this with the majority of eligible patients, there may still be some patients on Warfarin that can change to a different type of anticoagulation medication that does not need frequent blood testing, but for others there is no safe alternative."

"We have enclosed a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions, which includes an explanation of who may be eligible to change to this alternative type of medication. If you fall into this category and would like to consider this as an alternative to registering with another Practice, then please let us know as soon as possible and we can arrange an appointment with the relevant Healthcare Professional at the Practice to review this with you."

"Please do not stop taking your Warfarin without discussing the options with one of our GPs or Clinical Pharmacist as this could be very dangerous."

"Whilst we respect the right of patients to decide for themselves whether or not to take medication, it is very important that you understand all the risks of making changes to your anticoagulant treatment before you do so."

"We are very sorry that we are having to make this change and we hope that in due course our recruitment difficulties can be resolved and that we will be able to start offering the service again."


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