MORE ABOUT THE NEW SURGERY BUILDING
Minchinhampton Patient Participation Group (PPG) is pleased to have this opportunity to supplement our article in the Parish Magazine (September 2020, 12-13). That article remains helpful for understanding the current situation.
Our thanks to those who have recently written to the PPG. We appreciate how people have let us know about some concerns. Such openness helps us all to understand each other better, to clear up any misunderstandings, and to encourage the Minchinhampton community spirit we all appreciate and support. We hope the following questions and answers will assist this.
Q1. Why is a bigger Surgery needed?
The current surgery was completed in 1971, from architects’ designs in the late 1960s. There were 3 doctors and 2 nurses, to care for around 4,000 patients. In the 50 years since then, the practice staff and patient population have grown beyond expectations. There are now 6 doctors, 4 practice nurses, 3 health care assistants, 11 office staff, a practice manager and assistant manager, plus other team members, now caring for nearly 8000 patients, and all in the same small building. There are numerous extra visiting practitioners, including a midwife, mental health nurse, dementia specialist nurse, diabetic screener, and triage physiotherapist. The room rota to accommodate everyone is amazingly complicated. Sadly the lack of rooms has resulted in some services being withdrawn from Minchinhampton. For example, the district nursing team was moved to Nailsworth.
Building regulations have changed over the decades. Consulting rooms now have to conform to set standards which include size. Each room must have enough space for an examination couch to have curtains around it for privacy, not possible in all the old rooms. As a training practice, there must be sufficient space for the trainer to observe, and to enable agreed video recording, again not possible in some rooms. Toilet facilities accessible by disabled people are compulsory, with corridors and doors wide enough to allow wheelchairs and stretcher access, and with better fire door arrangements. All of these are new requirements since 1971!
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown the importance of space for everyone. A larger waiting area would reduce the risk of cross-infection of all kinds, keeping everyone safer. The office staff work in very cramped and crowded conditions, with no possibility of expanding the old building. Since 1971 there have been two extensions to the surgery building, one at each end, using up any spare garden land around the building. There is no possibility of increasing the parking space, while the new site will have more parking space for patients and staff. The new building will also allow for more working space inside, with improved working conditions for all. It will allow previous services to return to Minchinhampton and support new services. This will reduce the need for patients to travel to Gloucester, Cheltenham and other towns, while allowing for more and better services and experiences at Minchinhampton.
Q2. Will the new Surgery building, on the Vosper field, harm business prospects for the centre of our town?
Painswick surgery faced the same concerns when preparing to relocate to the edge of the town. However, local worries were not at all well founded. Everyone is delighted with better facilities, access, parking, and health services. Moving the surgery eased pressure on parking in the town center, so sight-seeing, shopping, browsing, and meeting up with people all became much easier, as well as visiting the surgery – a win-win situation. There is every reason to believe Minchinhampton will benefit in the same ways. The pharmacy in Minchinhampton centre will remain, with no intention to set up a new one in the new building. This allows the dispensing of prescriptions to continue in the same way, with easier parking in the town centre benefitting all shops. There will be no more congestion problems due to patients coming and going at the same times as children are being taken to and from school.
Q3: What about other sites?
The doctors at the surgery have been looking for alternative sites for the past twelveyears. Every possible site within the development boundary has been fully investigated. Each has presented major problems, preventing further consideration. There have been issues with access, not enough parking, legal complications, multiple ownership or uncertainties about ownership, size of site, health and safety considerations, poor access due to narrow lanes and turnings, unacceptable impact on the old town centre – to name but a few! Our beautiful Cotswold town with its close-packed stone houses and gardens does not readily allow for a large, easily accessible site. The Vosper family left the Vosper field to Minchinhampton Parish Council, to be used ‘for the good of the parish of Minchinhampton’, and surely providing for a new surgery, ensuring access to excellent local health care for the next fifty years and beyond would be a memorable, worthy legacy for the whole parish. The PPG will still provide transport as needed.
Q4: Has proper weight been given to environmental impact?
It is a legal requirement to cover environmental impact in the full planning application. A significant team of experts have been guiding and advising the doctors for the past two years whilst the Vosper field site has been considered. So far no adverse environmental issues have been identified. The building will be designed to the highest environmental standards.
To assist there is an experienced team of specialists, including an ecologist, environmental consultant, arborist, and heating and lighting engineer. Great care and concern will be given to how the building is constructed, the materials used, and how the building will operate in the years to come.
The formal, statutory, public consultation on the planning will be organised by Stroud District Council. Accordingly everyone will have the opportunity to take part in this consultation, when the full plans are published. Both Stroud District Council (SDC) and the Surgery website will make clear when this process of consultation starts. The PPG will also alert as many patients as possible by email and other methods. The plans have just been submitted to SDC, so that SDC may be ready to start the consultation in about two or three weeks. Please follow the Surgery website for further information on dates and the consultation process.
Q5: What if the Surgery stays in the old building?
The problems identified in answering question (1) above would not change. As time passes, these problems would potentially worsen as the building is already old and past its ‘best-by’ date. Most flat roofs last fifteen to twenty years; this one has already been replaced twice in the past thirty years and is now beyond further repair. The possibility that the building will deteriorate further is very real, meaning it would be assessed as unfit for purpose. It could then be down-graded to a branch surgery of a larger practice, or closed altogether, so that potentially Minchinhampton would have to amalgamate with Frithwood in Bussage, or Prices Mill in Nailsworth, and there would be no surgery at all in Minchinhampton.
Q6: What kinds of additional services can we expect the new building to support?
With more space, and more rooms, it will be possible to host podiatry services, an outreach mental health clinic and active physiotherapy sessions, for example. There will be a whole host of possible new uses, including a hub for community groups such as dementia clubs, mums and toddlers, needing health visitor support, health education presentations, antenatal classes, and possibly visiting consultant outreach clinics. These are not possible in the current building due to its prohibitive constraints.
We can now invite you, and all patients, to pass on to the Surgery via the PPG your own patient priorities for extra services and facilities. Please send by email your priorities for these to firstname.lastname@example.org so that all suggestions can be considered. Anonymity is guarantee (this is a service of the PPG) if you do not wish your identity to be known.
We are writing on behalf of Minchinhampton Surgery PPG, of which all patients are automatically members. We hope these answers are helpful and will encourage ongoing constructive partnership between patients and the surgery.
Graham Spencer (PPG chair) and Ian McPherson (PPG secretary)