'Surgery will buckle' - warning new homes will push Hethersett to crisis

Picture by Mike Page shows :- Aerial view of Hethersett.

Housing development in Hethersett is pushing healthcare services in the village close to breaking point, according to local councillors. - Credit: Mike Page

A Norfolk village is stepping up its efforts for improved medical services following a “crisis” caused by new development.

District and parish councillors representing Hethersett have written to health secretary Sajid Javid, South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon and NHS England asking for action to be taken to provide additional medical facilities to meet the increased demand and pressure on services in the village.

The letters, signed by Hethersett district councillors Philip Hardy, Adrian Dearnley and David Bills, Hethersett Parish Council chairman Adrienne Quinlan, Samantha England from Hethersett Hearts Community Group and Nigel Legg, South Norfolk councillor representing Mulbarton, include an impassioned plea for support and action to solve what it sees as an ongoing problem.

The letter to the health secretary states: "We have grave concerns about Humbleyard Practice's ability to cope with service levels at present and more housing development is on its way to the village. We would welcome your assistance with resolving this matter in your capacity as health secretary.

David Bills, Conservative county councillor for Hethersett.

David Bills, Conservative county councillor for the Humbleyard division, which includes Hethersett. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"A further 200 homes are currently being considered in Hethersett where Humbleyard Practice is currently struggling. Please help resolve these serious issues without delay."

The letter points out that the practice, which covers Hethersett, Cringleford and Mulbarton, has already admitted that it is unable to cope with current demands.

“Dr Siobhan Rowe of the Practice made a Facebook plea for residents not to contact them unless it is absolutely necessary and, despite many efficient changes made to booking appointments online in response to the pandemic, they are simply unable to cope.

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"They were not coping in December 2019 before the pandemic began let alone now with the vaccination programme being rolled out. Staff morale and wellbeing is low and stress levels are high due to the sheer volume of enquiries every day.

"The Practice is already over-subscribed by 1,500 patients and more housing development is on the way. Previous discussions with developers have been to no avail for reasons including lack of NHS funding, although a new doctor's surgery was included in the 2013 Hethersett North development, only for it to be taken out later.

New home secretary Sajid Javid

A letter has been written to health secretary Sajid Javid to make him aware of the issue. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

"Hethersett surgery is simply not large enough to cope with how quickly the village has expanded in terms of population and, even though developer contributions are made to NHS England when new development is approved by South Norfolk Council, the money has not been spent on improving Hethersett provision and the staff there are struggling.

"Every clinical room is full every day and staff are under enormous pressure. We are also aware that they struggle to recruit new staff and retain existing staff."

It also points out the inadequacy of the current surgery in Great Melton Road.

The councillors have met with developers Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon Homes in an attempt to identify a suitably sized and located piece of land for a new surgery.

"Meetings are continuing and we would welcome all the help you can give us in resolving this situation so our residents do not suffer an even poorer level of service than at present if more housing is approved," the letter continues.

"They have advised they cannot simply convert existing buildings such as Woodside First school which is no longer in use but would require a new build."

The Humbleyard Practice which has sites in Cringleford, Hethersett and Mulbarton, has shared it has

The Humbleyard Practice which has sites in Cringleford, Hethersett and Mulbarton, has shared it has reached an all high demand for its services. - Credit: Archant

The letter concludes with an impassioned plea: "We would ask you urgently and without delay to address this issue because if the 200 extra homes in Hethersett are approved then Hethersett Surgery will buckle under the additional pressure and existing Hethersett residents will suffer in terms of service provision as a result."

The practice has written to the NHS’ Clinical Commissioning Group to express what it claims is the lack of insight and support over the last 10 years in planning primary care services for residents in areas of large residential developments.

Hethersett Parish Council’s latest meeting heard that a senior member of the practice’s medical staff has gone off long-term sick.