Health and care leaders in Sunderland have confirmed the forthcoming closure of Monument Surgeries’ branch site in Pennywell after considering feedback from patients and stakeholders.

Despite efforts to recruit a permanent GP over several years, Monument Surgeries’ branch site in Pennywell runs solely with locum GPs with no substantive GP in place. A practice nurse is only available two days a week. For patients, the quality of services and appointment availability is often very restricted due to lack of staff.

Over 550 responses were received during an eight week patient consultation at the end of last year. Although the majority of patients felt they received a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ service in Pennywell (57%), many also acknowledged the difficulties in accessing appointments with 81% indicating the importance of getting an appointment when they need one.

At a meeting of NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG), Primary Care Commissioning Committee in January, health and care leaders decided to support Monument Surgeries’ application to close its branch site in Pennywell.

Work is already underway to directly contact around 2,430 patients who are registered at Monument Surgeries in Pennywell and support them to register at alternative nearby GP practices which are all accepting new patients. This work will continue over the coming months with the Pennywell branch site expected to close on 31 May 2022.

There will be no impact on other services delivered from Pennywell Neighbourhood Centre which will remain open and continue to deliver its services as usual for the local community.

NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group is the body responsible for planning and buying GP services in Sunderland. Mrs Clare Nesbit, Director of People and Primary Care at Sunderland CCG said: “Supporting the closure of any GP service is always a very difficult decision but we believe this will mean a better service for people in Pennywell in the long term.

“Patients themselves have acknowledged and even expressed concern about the difficulty of getting an appointment in Pennywell with some waiting up to two weeks and we hope to see this improve as patients register at alternative nearby practices.

“We will work closely with Monument Surgeries and other GP practices in the area over the coming months to make sure there is a seamless transition for patients.”

Dr Emily Hadaway is Head of GP Clinical Services at Sunderland GP Alliance who hold the contract for running Monument Surgeries. She said: “We know this will be sad news for the community but the quality of service we are able to offer in Pennywell is just not as good as it should be, or indeed what people in Pennywell deserve. We have been trying to recruit a permanent GP now for many years without success and cannot continue as we are.

“We are very grateful for the ongoing support of partners at other nearby practices and will be working closely with patients to support them to register with a different GP. We don’t want people to panic. There will be plenty of time to register at another practice and we will be in touch directly with patients to make sure they know what to do and how to get to their new GP practice from Pennywell.”

Patients who are currently registered with Monument Surgeries in Pennywell will have the option of several alternative GP practices within close proximity to Pennywell which are all accepting new patients. Alternatively they can choose to stay registered with Monument Surgeries and access appointments in Barmston or Washington in future.