Burnham-On-Sea’s MP James Heappey has spoken out this week about a controversial decision to withdraw vital Warfarin blood testing at the town’s medical centre due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.

As we reported here, Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre has written to 230 patients stating that it has “to concentrate resources on providing essential general practice services” due to the recruitment problems.

From July 1st, the life-saving Warfarin blood testing and management service is being withdrawn and patients have been advised to use other medical centres instead.

Mr Heappey told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “Over the last few days, I’ve spoken to both the Burnham and Highbridge Medical Centres, the Chief Executive of the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Chairman of Burnham Medical Centre’s Patient Group. Whilst I am reassured to know that this is not a resource issue – the Burnham Medical Centre is handing back the money for the INR testing contract – I am disappointed that clinician recruitment issues have again led to the loss of an important medical service within our community.”

“The most important issue is the management of those patients who have required INR testing as a result of their use of Warfarin. The Highbridge Medical Centre assures me that they are able to take on patients wishing to transfer whilst the Burnham Medical Centre has explained that many of the 230 affected patients will be able to switch to a different anticoagulant which requires only an annual blood test. I understand that the practice is speaking to all affected patients in order to review their treatment. It is hugely important that, in the meantime, existing patients do not stop taking their Warfarin.”

“However, I understand the anger that patients will feel – especially those who are unable to switch medication because of other conditions. The Clinical Commissioning Group are looking at other ways to deliver the INR contract in the Burnham-on-Sea area and I will continue to work with local NHS leaders and the Government to find a solution to the problems we have on clinician recruitment in our county.”

“I am sure that the Unite Union intended to invite me to their meeting in Burnham this evening and that it is a genuine oversight rather than politics that meant they didn’t get in touch. I know that they will know that the loss of the INR testing service in Burnham is not because of a lack of funds and so I look forward to working with them constructively to find a solution for patients in Burnham.”

“However, it is important that local residents are not fooled by the press release circulated by the union before their meeting tonight. Somerset’s NHS Sustainability & Transformation Plan is not remotely “secretive.” I was briefed on it months ago, so were the Patient Participation Groups around the county and full copies have been available through the Somerset Partnership NHS Trust, the Somerset County Council and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group from the moment it was published. This vision for Somerset’s healthcare was written by clinicians – not politicians – and is well worth reading. You can read the STP and contribute to the consultation by visiting the CCG’s website: http://www.somersetccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/consultations-and-engagement/stp-plan/”