A STRUGGLING GP surgery has been forced to convert a tiny cleaning cupboard into a consulting room to cope with rising demand.

Mount Chambers Surgery, in Coggeshall Road, Braintree, closed its books to new patients last month after being overwhelmed by the town’s growing population.

Practice manager Peter Hadfield said the desperate measure underlined the need for a new super-surgery being planned by Braintree Council.

He said: “It’s a joke. It’s so small that the nurse practitioner has a couch in there that she can’t actually lay flat.

“But we were able to take on one extra nurse practitioner and that meant we could take on an extra 40 or 50 patients that we didn’t have before.”

Braintree and Witham Times:

Mr Hadfield said the surgery has created three new consulting rooms in the last four years by moving storage facilities off-site.

But he said the problem has become so bad that the surgery could move into temporary accommodation until a new facility is built.

He said: “This new development is going to be three times the size of what we have at the moment.

“So we will be able to expand our list and absorb a lot of the growth that’s going on in Braintree.”

The council has shifted the focus of the proposed redevelopment of the bus park in Victoria Street from retail to a “state-of-the-art” medical facility which could handle up to 40,000 patients.

Tom Cunningham, cabinet member for economic growth, said the plan, being drawn up with developer Henry Boot, is an opportunity other towns “just don’t have”.

He said: “We’ve listened to our residents, we know that they have concerns about GP provision and we know the challenges GP surgeries are experiencing right now.

“Now more than ever we need to make sure that we’re preparing for the future.

“We’re close to a deal which will see the town have a state-of-the-art modern medical facility which will serve our existing and future residents for decades.

“I make no apology for it taking time, it’s so important we get this right.”

Mr Cunningham said both NHS England and Mount Chambers Surgery are closely involved in the plans, which will also include restaurants and public space.

Braintree and Witham Times:

BRAINTREE’S GP crisis hit a new low after all but one of the town’s surgeries were forced to close their books to new patients.

Only St Lawrence Medical Practice in Bocking End was accepting new patients in February, although the surgery has had a closed list in the past.

Mount Chambers has nearly 14,000 patients, Blandford Medical Centre has nearly 19,000 while Blyths Meadow Surgery has just over 10,000.

St Lawrence has nearly 12,000 patients.

Mount Chambers practice manager Peter Hadfield said: “It is a temporary closure and we are accepting relatives of existing patients.

“So if someone has a baby or their grandfather comes to Braintree we will take them.

“As far as I know all the other surgeries are still in the same situation.”