THE Mayor of Melksham has welcomed an announcement that St Damian’s Surgery is to stay open for the foreseeable future.

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group has “declined” to give approval to the Bradford on Avon & Melksham Health Partnership plan to close the surgery by the end of March.

Cllr Adrienne Westbrook hailed the decision as “good news” for Melksham, saying it would have put St Damian’s 3,133 patients in a difficult position.

“Melksham has grown over the past ten years and is expected to grow again over the next ten years. To lose over 3,000 patient places would have put Melksham in serious difficulties.

“Giffords Surgery has spare capacity but to take on 2,000 more patients would have put them in a really difficult position.”

The Spa Medical Centre in Snowberry Lane is already at full capacity and unable to take on more NHS patients.

In a message to its 21,144 patients, the BoAMHP ‘s senior GP, Dr Janice Patrick, said: “The BoAMHP partners would like to inform our patients that Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group have declined our proposal to close our St Damian’s branch surgery and amend our practice boundary at this point.

“As a consequence of this announcement, we will need to re-assess the service provision across all of our four sites, in view of our workforce challenges.

“We will communicate any proposed changes to you in the coming weeks.”

Ellen Wilson, the BoAMHP’s business manager, added: “We need to take time to evaluate all of the options we have available to us. St Damian’s will remain open beyond March 2019.”

Wiltshire CCG said: “We carefully considered the proposal from BoAMHP to close St Damian’s Surgery in Melksham and reduce their practice boundary, and listened to considerable feedback from the local communities. As a result we did not approve the proposal to close St Damian’s at this time.”

“Recognising the pressures and challenges they are facing, we are working very closely with BoAMHP and the wider locality to develop an interim solution that relieves the pressure on BoAMHP, as well as a longer term solution that takes into account the need to establish resilient primary care networks across the country.

“This will pick up working with patient, public and town engagement to improve the understanding, relationships and branding of primary care services across the locality.”

BoA&MHP has found it difficult to recruit and retain new staff, a problem facing GP practices nationwide.

The difficulties have led to new telephone appointment systems being introduced by many practices and patients complaining they are unable to access a GP quickly.