Health bosses have spoken of their plans for the future of two GP practices in Sunderland.
At a meeting held at the Sunderland Civic Centre, Debbie Burnicle, the deputy chief officer of the NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told councillors of plans to merge Church View Medical Centre and Colliery Medical Group.
The two practices, based next door at Silksworth Health Centre, will no longer provide GP services from October.
This comes as the current providers said they no longer wish to provide GP services after September 30, meaning the CCG is now looking to find a replacement provider to take over the services - caring for around 11,000 patients - which will be merged into one practice.
However, the CCG has reassured patients that they can continue to use existing services as normal ahead of the changes.
Ms Burncile said their priority has been to ensure there is general practice in Silksworth for patients and stressed the service and place of service is not changing despite the planned merger.
She said: “Practices only have to give six months notice when they hand contracts back and they both wanted to hand their contracts back.
“That only gave us until June, which just isn’t long enough to try and get a new provider. “We have been speaking to them to try and get them to extend it and keep doing what they are doing for three extra months.
“We have secured that and this will give us up until the end of September.”
She added: “One contract - which will have 10,000 to 11,000 patients in one place - will be more attractive to potential providers.
“Operating from one practice will also be more cost effective than two practices.
“Branches didn’t feel like a viable option for us, so combining them would get more interest from a provider.”
The CCG stressed that every decision had been made with patients and stakeholders in mind and now the CCG is looking to communicate and engage with patients to reassure them that services will continue to run in Silksworth.
A letter to patients has already been sent out and the CCG is also planning events for patients at the end of April and in early May to ask any questions.
The CCG also said a recommendation has been made for a patent rep who is on the evaluation panel for the procurements.
Silksworth Ward Councillor Phil Tye said the GGC’s reassurance has come too late for many residents and told of how he had been inundated with calls from worried patients after they heard rumours about the future of their surgeries.
At the meeting he said: “You understand how emotive this issue is to these local residents.
“You are staying that you have known about this issue for 16 weeks, that is not a short period of time that is a long period of time.”
While Coun John Cummings said: “If the two practices merge there is going to 11,00 patients there. “Will you be able to recruit enough partners to manage the practice?”
The CCG assured him the figure was a sustainable practice size.