COUNCILLORS have pleaded with health chiefs to hold a full public consultation over potentially "devastating" changes to GP surgeries.

Concerns have been raised over a new model set out in a blueprint published by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that could see primary care delivered at significantly fewer sites in the future.

The model could lead to the potential closure of a number of existing surgery buildings in Weymouth and west Dorset, although it has been stressed the practices themselves will continue to operate.

Following the publication of the Primary Care Commissioning Strategy and Plan, by the CCG the matter was discussed as an urgent item by members of the Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee.

Cllr David Jones slammed the suggestion that the proposed changes may not be subject to full public consultation because they did not constitute a major change.

He said: "What your getting is something that is really, really devastating in its coverage."

Cllr Jones put forward a motion that the committee ask the CCG to attend a special meeting in a month to discuss the matter further and to provide a plan for "appropriate consultation with the public".

Cllr Jones' motion, which was backed by the whole committee, also stated that the CCG should be aware of members' displeasure that it did not itself identify the matter as something that should be brought to the committee at an early stage.

Cllr Ros Kayes added: "We need to give this detailed scrutiny, it's a major change and does need to go to public consultation."

The blueprint for Weymouth and Portland, which currently has eight GP practices across 12 locations, could potentially be delivered from three to six locations.

For the 'Mid Dorset' area, which includes Dorchester it envisions the services currently provided by eight GP practices across 11 sites being provided at four to six locations.

And for west Dorset the plan claims three to five locations could potentially deliver the services currently provided by seven practices.

Director of design and transformation for the CCG Dr Phil Richardson said that the document was not a set of proposals but a model that had been set out for discussion amongst GPs using national standards.

He said: "There haven't been any decisions taken so it's a real opportunity to engage with the committee, engage with where we are in the process and work out what's the best way of moving forward."

Dr Richardson added: "Engaging with the public is a massively important part."

An organisation representing patients in Dorset has said patients deserve a "clear explanation" of what the future holds for GP surgeries.

Martyn Webster, manager of Healthwatch Dorset, said: "People rely on their GP practices more than any other part of the health service.

"So we're all going to be very worried when we get a whiff of plans which could lead to some of them closing.

"What we need is a clear explanation of what's going on, what's being proposed and how local people can have their say.

"One of the CCG's own GPs has described the proposals as being written in 'deliberately foggy wording'. But people aren't fooled.

"They know that "consolidation of sites" means some of the surgeries people currently go to closing.

"We've sent our local NHS organisations some tips on how to do public consultations, including - use plain language; welcome different views; don't be defensive; involve people from the beginning and give people enough time to consider what's being proposed, to comment on it and question it."

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