Battle to save village surgery steps up

THE battle to save a village doctors’ surgery has stepped up, with the man who rescued it from closure 26 years ago wading in to defend it.

Current landlord Chris Racey claims rent on the building equates to just 11 pence per month for every permanent resident in Belton, and is shocked NHS bosses are citing the cost of bringing it up to standard - or founding a new centre - for closure.

Villagers are petitioning to keep the medical centre open after bosses at NHS Norfolk and Waveney said it was not up to scratch and there was no cash to bring it up to standard or open a new surgery in the village.

Its 1,200 patients will be transferred to Millwood Surgery in Bradwell before it shuts its doors for the last time on June 6.

But residents are determined to fight the closure to the bitter end, with huge demand for Tuesday’s public meeting seeing it moved to a larger venue.

And Mr Racey, who bought the surgery in 1986 to save it from closure when a doctor retired, is urging the NHS to reconsider its position.

He is still landlord of the St John’s Road surgery building, and says he has no desire to end the lease - despite letting the building at less than the market rate.

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“I cannot condone the withdrawal of this essential community service that I worked so hard to establish,” said Mr Racey, who lived in Belton for a decade. “The village has grown since then and I feel aggrieved that we’re looking at the prospect of its demise,”

He said though the �504 per month lease has run out, the tenants have no obligation to leave.

But surgery managers have served notice on him, and he said if the surgery does not meet NHS standards it is only because managers have been “running it down” instead of investing in it.

While Bradwell is just three miles away, Belton residents say public transport links are poor and frail elderly residents will face a struggle with the journey.

And a public meeting at Moorlands School is to be held on Tuesday at 7pm - with the venue upgraded from the 70 capacity John Green Institute due to demand.

John Rudrum, chairman of Belton Parish Council, said: “This is a serious issue and we’ve got to get this resolved.

“The feeling is strong in the village and we’re expecting a constructive and informative meeting with the primary care trust.”

In a statement released earlier this month, Andy Peck, head of estates and facilities with NHS Norfolk and Waveney, wrote: “As Belton Surgery is based in a former house, it no longer meets the current building standards needed for NHS services.

“Over the past two years NHS Norfolk and Waveney and the practice have been looking at a number of different options to see if alternative arrangements could be made.

“Unfortunately it has not been possible to find a financially viable solution.”

Patients will remain registered with their original doctor, and NHS bosses are discussing public transport routes with the county council.