Patients registered at Monument Surgeries in Pennywell have been invited to give their views about proposed changes to their practice.

Due to ongoing and severe staffing challenges and a lack of permanent GPs at the practice, Monument Surgeries is now considering the long-term sustainability oservices in Pennywell.  This could mean the closure of the branch site in Pennywell.

Despite relentless efforts over the past five years to recruit GPs to Pennywell, Monument Surgeries has continued to experience difficulty.  The branch site in Pennywell has been running solely with locum GPs and despite all best efforts to recruit a permanent salaried GP, there remains no substantive GP in place.   

Challenges are also being faced from a nursing perspective with a practice nurse only available two days a week, leaving services fragile and vulnerable.  For patients, the quality of services at Pennywell has undoubtedly been impacted and appointment availability is often very restricted due to the lack of staff.

Around 2,700 patients who are currently registered at Monument Surgeries in Pennywell are being contacted directly.  They will be asked for their views and invited to give feedback about how they might be affected by any service changes before any decisions are made. 

Over the next 8 weeks, patients will be asked to complete a survey, take part in a telephone conversation or attend an online engagement event to share their views.  Information will be shared with patients about potential future options and other nearby GP practices which are all accepting new patients.

Sunderland GP Alliance, who hold the contract for the practice, will also seek views from all key stakeholders.  Dr Emily Hadaway is Head of GP Clinical Services at Sunderland GP Alliance.  She said: “In recent years it has been increasingly difficult for us to keep services going in Pennywell and our prime concern is always the wellbeing of our patients and making sure they have equal access to the highest quality of care.

“It is important that we are open and honest with people about the staffing challenges we face on a daily basis.  We simply cannot ignore these and feel services in Pennywell are now simply not sustainable in the long-term despite tremendous efforts over many years to attract and retain staff. 

 “Like everyone working in primary care, we want to build resilient GP services which meet the highest possible standards for the people we serve.  We know in Pennywell that the quality of service is not what we want for our patients and so we need to make a change.”

NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group is the body responsible for planning and buying GP services in Sunderland.  Dr Neil O’Brien, a GP and CCG Accountable Officer said: “The workforce pressures at Monument Surgeries in Pennywell are significant and we have heard very clearly the concerns raised by Sunderland GP Alliance about the future sustainability of services.

“Over the coming eight weeks we would encourage patients and stakeholders to give their views to aid decision making about the future of primary care services in the area. Given the extensive work done so far by Sunderland GP Alliance and the benefits of already being part of the City’s GP Alliance network, there is clearly no magic bullet to fix the workforce challenges being faced.

“The priority now is making sure there are open and honest conversations with patients and stakeholders about what this might mean for the future.”

Consultation with patients and stakeholders into the future of Monument Surgeries in Pennywell will run from Monday 4 October to Friday 26 November 2021.  A decision is expected at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee meeting in early 2022.