Risk to Horton catchment if Byfield Medical Centre is forced to close

A planning dispute over 78 new homes in Byfield is threatening the future of the village's medical centre, according to staff.
Practice manager Tracey Rymer is pictured outside the Byfield Medical CentrePractice manager Tracey Rymer is pictured outside the Byfield Medical Centre
Practice manager Tracey Rymer is pictured outside the Byfield Medical Centre

The centre in Church Street, which has 8,300 patients has outgrown its accommodation which was built for 4,300 patients and is said to be 'not fit for purpose'. There are not enough rooms for practitioners to see patients and managers say NHS England refuses to prioritise a new health centre.

A solution has been found in the offer of an acre of adjoining land plus £1.25 towards building costs - but it comes with the proviso that the landowner is given planning permission for 78 homes.

The Parish Council is against the idea because of the problems the development would bring with it.

Byfield Medical Centre's practice manager, Tracey Rymer, said: "If the medical centre had to close, patients would have to go to Banbury or Daventry for GP services. Most would probably go to Daventry as it is closer, but that would mean they would be referred to Northampton General for secondary care.

"The patients, and we, would want them to get their care at the Horton and in Oxfordshire as they do now but that probably would not happen."

Mrs Rymer said a Byfield resident travelling by bus to Banbury for a 10am appointment would have to leave at 8.30am and would not be home until lunchtime.

"That is not acceptable for elderly people and we don't know what would happen about home visits," she said.

"95 per cent of the village is in favour of the plan for a new medical centre and accepting the new houses - which may also help maintain the viability of the primary school - but about five per cent and the parish council are not in favour."

John Gillic, chairman of the parish council, said: "The medical centre provides a good level of service and care (but) it is a privately-run enterprise which is not under threat and indeed is still accepting new patients.

"It is recognized that the premises are not adequate due to the additional strain from extensive local development (but) there has been a real lack of investment in the building and there does not appear to be any plan for the tenants and landlords to agree improvements.

"A number of parishioners felt the new surgery site should be gifted to the community. If not then a covenant will be required so this site can only ever be used as a medical centre."

Mr Gillic said the parish council could see the attraction of free land and £1,250,000 towards the development.

"Byfield as a community is not being offered anything from this is a highly significant, once in a lifetime proposal and the Parish Council is working hard to ensure that the outcome is the best it can be for everyone."

Charlotte Bird, vice chair of Keep the Horton General said: "It is immensely disappointing that, once again, people living in a rural area are the ones to bear the brunt of the appalling underfunding of the NHS.

"We can see what an appalling choice Byfield is faced with because NHS England will not prioritise this vital community facility - either watch it close and send thousands of patients miles to see a GP or nurse or put up with a large housing development.

"How can decision makers in Westminster have any idea what it is like not to have access to public transport or their own vehicle to make a simple trip to their doctor? Not only that but if the medical centre closes, it poses a direct risk to the viability of the Horton and that is not something we can accept."

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