The proposed merger of two GP surgeries in March will not only be better for patients it will also help solve the problem of recruiting doctors.
That’s the view of Paul Carroll, practice manager at the Riverside surgery which is currently in the early stages of merging with the town’s Mercheford House practice.
Mr Carroll said the idea of a merger between the two surgeries has been talked about for the past few years but has never progressed past that point. However, representatives of both surgeries have now concluded a merger is the best way forward for both practices and will provide an enhanced service for patients.
But there is already some unrest amongst patients of both practices who fear the merger could lead to a poorer service.
Posts to the March Facebook pages included one woman who wrote: “No, no, no! Do not merge Mercheford House GP Practice with Riverside. Bigger does not mean better.”
A view echoed by others including one who wrote: “This would not be a good move at all. Both practices run well on their own and being bigger will not make for better.”
But Mr Carroll explained Mercheford House practice is coming to the end of the lease on its premises in Elwyn Road and is unlikely to renew it because the building will not be suitable in the future. That would mean the practice having to either close or find an alternative location.
The Riverside practice occupies a building that has more than enough capacity to look after 16,500 patients and the building offers better flexibility for expansion, which means a merger would solve the need for a new home for Mercheford House.
He said recruiting doctors has long been an issue, although Riverside has just found a replacement for Dr David Donovan, who has left the practice after he was rescued from kidnappers while doing charity work in Nigeria.
“We were expecting it to be difficult to recruit a new doctor but we were lucky. Mercheford House has one of their doctors leaving in June and they have the uncertainty of finding a replacement.
“A merger will help combat the issues of recruitment. It will mean some re-configuring of the building and the car park, and ironing out some of the different ways of working each surgery has, but we are confident a merger is the right thing not just for the two practices and their staff but also for our patients.
“It is all about providing the best, most sustainable and resilient service to our patients and by joining forces we can do that,” said Mr Carroll, who added an open public meeting will be held in a few weeks time.
At present Riverside looks after 8,500 patients and Mercheford House has around 6,200. There are two and half full time doctors at Riverside with three advance nurse practitioners and one practice nurse. Mercheford House currently has three doctors and one nurse practitioner.
Mr Carroll said the merger will make it easier for staff if government proposals to increase surgery opening hours come in.
He said while there are no plans to merge with the Cornerstone practice there is scope for a closer working relationship in the future.
Any merger will have to be agreed by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning group but Mr Carroll does not see that as an issue.
“There is a flavour at the moment for practices to merge, so there should be no problem there. It is just a question of sorting out the nuts and bolts,” he said.