A long-serving Diss GP has said the busy Diss Health Centre could see an extra 400 to 500 patients on the books if two planning applications totalling nearly 250 more homes for the town are approved.
A proposal for 142 homes for land north of Frenze Hall Lane, as well as an outline application for up to 90 properties on the site of Frontier Agriculture in Sandy Lane, have been lodged in recent months, while the issue of how the infrastructure of Diss could cope has been raised by residents and councillors alike.
Plans to expand the health centre, which is made up of the Parish Fields Practice and Lawns Medical Practice, were approved by South Norfolk Council back in 2013, while in February of last year, the Diss Express reported that the “next hurdle” had been crossed in making the proposals a reality, following discussions with NHS England.
But those plans are currently on the back burner, after NHS England deemed the scheme was not value for money.
Dr Ian Hume, who has practiced in Diss for more than 20 years, said refurbishment works were set to take place to make the “best possible use of the space” they currently have, in the “short to medium term”.
He added should the two housing applications go through, it could mean as many as 500 extra people being registered at the health centre.
“I think the general demand is high, both in Diss and in the rest of Norfolk, so if you stepped foot in the health centre on any day of the week, it is pretty full,” he said.
Dr Hume said while there had been population growth in the town, there had been little expansion of either staff of facilities at the health centre.
“It is a difficult situation,” he continued.
“We want to provide good quality care to patients. We have a high work load, and we will be lobbying for extra resources to help us do that.
“We are trying in difficult circumstances but we will need to make sure we have a plan for the future which involves both staff and infrastructure so hopefully patients will bear with us while we move things forward.”
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon has made his views clear to South Norfolk Council about the 142 homes plan for Diss.
In a letter he said: “I also share the concern for local GPs that these new houses could add perhaps 400 new patients to the rolls of the two GP practices in the town and that this would increase the pressure on primary care services in Diss in delivering services to patients in the area.
“I have contacted NHS England on this matter and urged them to expedite the expansion of Primary Care Services in Diss but I would be grateful if South Norfolk Council’s Development Management
Committee could keep in mind the potential impact of additional patients on the Lawns and Parish Fields GP practices.”
The Parish Fields Practice Patient Participation Group, formed to ensure the practice is aware of patient needs and concerns, has also submitted a comment on both homes bids.
They are calling on South Norfolk Council to “take into account properly” the “impact on health services” when deciding on applications for the town.
A letter from the chairman of the group John Blagden to the district authority read: “It (the practice) is already under significant financial pressures due, in part, to higher than forecasted patient numbers.
“The Patient Participation Group is concerned at the lack of impact analysis undertaken on health services and infrastructure when planning applications are considered.
“The practice has been unable to secure funding to extend the Health Centre and we also understand there is no additional funding for health services when new planning applications are agreed.
“Piecemeal small planning applications, such as this one, add up and can have a significant impact on the quality of services provided by the practice to patients and the community.”