WITHAM should get a share of NHS England’s £500million package for primary care, the town’s MP has insisted.
Priti Patel has written to NHS England’s chief executive, calling on them to grant Witham a share of the budget.
She has also held talks with the Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group over the services a new healthcare facility should deliver.
Ms Patel said: “I have campaigned on this issue for the last six years and Witham desperately needs a new multi-purpose healthcare facility and greater primary care capacity to deal with growing demand on services.
“A recent survey from the Essex Local Medical Committee highlighted 83 per cent of GP practices across the county are unable to pro- vide enough appointments and this is particularly evident in Witham.”
Ms Patel said residents struggled to secure appointments and had to travel to neighbouring towns for care and treatments.
She added: “A new multipurpose healthcare facility would increase capacity in the town, bring other services in and transform how local health services are delivered, bringing them closer to their users.”
Witham councillor Michael Lager suggested the old Bramston Sports Centre would be a suitable site.
He said: “The problem is it’s difficult to get through on the phone to make appointments; to start with it needs to be made easier for people to get in touch, perhaps through a switchboard.
“Progress is being made in practices such as Fern House where patients can log in online to check appointments.
“Once the appointment is made you need to be able to get some- where accessible. Bramston Sports Centre is right in the middle of town and there is good access on public transport.
“There is also the potential to include dentistry and eye services, they just need to think outside the box and do it.”
Fellow councillor Christopher Bailey said finding the right site was a challenge.
He said: “It’s a brilliant idea in principle but there are practical issues; we have to be realistic as the bus services around the town are not very good. We would need somewhere with a car park for staff and patients which is easily accessible.
“Everybody at Braintree Council acknowledges we need facilities, but we are struggling to get a com- mitment from the NHS to provide these services. It’s a good idea but it needs to actually happen.”
The NHS has proposed opening a “Live Well” hub in Witham, which would include NHS, council and charity services.
Dr Caroline Dollery, Chair of Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group and its Live Well Committee, said: “We want people in mid Essex to Live Well and stay well.
“We are developing plans to help sustain health and social care into the future, bringing them closer together both in the way they work and where our local communities have access to them.
“As part of the development, we are talking to many groups who can contribute to making these Live Well concepts happen.”