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Opinion: Reorganisation of Guildford GP Practices Would Lead to Poorer Service

Published on: 3 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2021

Flu jab queue Wodeland Surgery

By Nigel Fielding

member of the St Catherine’s Village Association committee

Many residents remain unaware that Surrey Heartlands Clinical Commissioning Group is planning to “rationalise” primary care services in North and West Guildford. This could affect the proximity of our valued GP surgeries.

The reorganisation, paused because of the pandemic, involves merging the services of the Guildowns Group Practice (GGP) and Woodbridge Hill Surgery. It is likely to have a significant impact on patient service, in particular, the distance patients need to travel to see their GP.

It is suggested that all surgeries in the west and south of Guildford may be centralised into just one, or possibly two, surgeries, both in the north of Guildford. Wodeland Surgery was only relocated to its purpose-built building in the 1990s but if the reorganisation goes ahead as suggested it will leave no GP practice surgeries south of the A3 and west of the River Wey.

Map showing the location of existing surgeries in Guildford and the suggested new sites. Click on image to enlarge.

Guildowns currently operates from four locations and Woodbridge Hill from one. Options were considered in a 2019 feasibility study with a single site, new-build option at either the Jarvis Centre or Kings College in Park Barn and a two-site option with new buildings on both these sites. A three-site option would retain the Wodeland Avenue surgery but was seen as highly unlikely.

Fundamental travel and transport issues make journeys across the town, especially south to north, complex and often time-consuming. Buses within Guildford are the only means of public transport. The majority are routed through the town centre and many terminate in the centre, especially the bus station.

Journeys from south to north require passengers to change buses which, along with town centre congestion, could make access to the proposed primary care centres, if solely in North Guildford, difficult.

Patients in the south and west of Guildford would face longer journey times especially during rush hours or when the A3 is congested. The area outlined in black on the map has an estimated population of approximately 12,000 people. While some use surgeries in the east of Guildford (Dapdune, St Lukes and Austen Road), and some now use surgeries in Godalming and Milford following the closure of the St Nicolas surgery in Buryfields, a large fraction of residents in South and West Guildford use the Wodeland Avenue surgery.

When St Nicolas surgery closed the other Guildford surgeries could not take on a significant part of its caseload, indicating that there was already pressure on local GP practices. That pressure can only increase as Guildford Borough Council proceeds with its Guildford Economic Regeneration Plan (GERP), which will potentially add 4,000 new homes in the town centre area over the next 2-5 years, with other new housing developments further adding to the demand on local GP practices.

Those leading the CCG Feasibility Study have emphasised that North Guildford includes the areas of most substantial social deprivation in our borough. It is certainly the case that there is a need to improve GP services in that part of the town.

The CCG’s intention is to create “super-surgeries” that will have more advanced equipment and facilities, and offer a wider range of services. This is highly desirable, but it is equally desirable that any improved GP services should be accessible to all Guildford residents.

The 2019 feasibility study found that stakeholders, including patients and the general public, regard access, defined as “physically being able to get to the practice with good transport links and car parking facilities”, as the prime priority. While the 2019 study concluded that its favoured two-site option would enable the majority of patients to access the new sites by a 5 to 15-minute car journey, the modelling was not based on rush hour traffic and the journey times are substantially higher by public transport.

The importance and need to provide new primary care facilities and services north of the A3, an area having the highest level of deprivation in Guildford and with new housing developments coming on stream is clear. Nonetheless, some may feel that this should not be achieved by limiting facilities and services to patients in the west and south-west of Guildford which are also going to experience substantial population growth and which have already seen the closure of one of their two surgeries.

Click on image to link

Readers interested in the GP practice reorganisation may wish to consult this CCG webpage Health and Primary Care in Guildford as the initiative develops, and to seek the view of their local councillor, noting that the intention is for the new super-surgeries to be up and running by April 2024, when services at the existing surgeries will cease.

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test 4 Responses to Opinion: Reorganisation of Guildford GP Practices Would Lead to Poorer Service

  1. Peter Brayne Reply

    December 3, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    Although I’d heard rumours of this, it’s the first time I’ve read anything substantive about these changes. There needs to be much more consultation with patients. I also think there needs to be some investment in new technology to grow and improve the quality of “online” consultations. Hopefully, this would release resources to improve face-to-face consultations.

    Editor’s comment: We did publish this story in October 2019 Five Guildford GP Surgeries Targeted For Possible Closure In Health Services Revamp but then the pandemic struck and the initiative was postponed.

  2. Zong Fang Dai Reply

    December 31, 2021 at 6:32 pm

    I strongly suggest that Wodeland Surgery should remain open as it is located at the bottom of the Hog’s Back and it feels safe for elderly patients to visit. There is too much traffic in the town centre, it is not good for elderly people with eyesight issues.

  3. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    January 2, 2022 at 2:38 pm

    Unfortunately, Wodeland Surgery is not ideally situated for the elderly or less mobile who do not have a car. There is no public transport, and the climb up Farnham Road and onwards to the surgery is not easy. Even with a car, the car park is often full of staff cars.

    The Jarvis Centre would require the use of two buses from the Guildford Park area, which could easily result in missed appointments due to the appalling traffic congestion in the town centre. Park Barn would seem to be the best option.

    There is another option, which would be to utilise some of the land at Guildford Park Road car park, as it has not been developed by GBC even though planning permission was granted some years ago.

    It has been vaguely reinstated as a car park, with one section currently being occupied by Travellers. A doctors’ surgery and NHS dentist would be a great improvement on what is currently a wasted site, especially if Guildford Cathedral gets its way and builds even more homes on Stag Hill.

  4. Janet Moorhouse Reply

    January 4, 2022 at 10:54 am

    Alas, Guildford is one of the least suitable towns for the elderly to inhabit. Too hilly, traffic a nightmare, very few local shopping areas, too few “convenience”, everyday, necessity shops. A pleasant town for an afternoon shopping “experience” but one in which, as an elderly resident, life can be difficult.

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