Cheltenham candidates share their views on whether town needs a new GP surgery

Independent Daud McDonald, who was the first to answer, said he did not think the town needed another doctor’s surgery.
-Credit: (Image: Carmelo Garcia)


Cheltenham’s parliamentary candidates gave their views on whether the spa town needs a new GP surgery at Sunday's (June 23) hustings at St Matthew’s Church. An unnamed member of the public asked what they each thought about the idea of having another surgery or whether alternatives should be considered as a way of improving the town’s healthcare provision.

She asked them what research they have done and how they know whether the town needs another GP surgery. “Have you looked at other alternatives like how the surgeries are actually run? What about the appointment system?

Independent Daud McDonald, who was the first to answer, said he did not think the town needed another doctor’s surgery. He praised St George's Surgery and said he can get an appointment whenever he needs one.

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“We have five or six doctors’ surgeries,” he said. “If I need to see a doctor on that day, I can.

“I just ring up and ask for the doctor to call me. We can chat about it over the phone and I can be in that morning.

“The same for my children. It’s about efficiency and good management I think. I’m pretty sure we have enough doctor’s surgeries.”

He suggested reintroducing time and motion men back into all areas where public money is being spent. “Money is just thrown at things,” he said.

Liberal Democrat Max Wilkinson, who is running a campaign for a new GP surgery in the town, said Cheltenham is a growing place that needs more public services. He said the clear issue is that it takes a lot longer to get an appointment because there is a huge number of people on NHS waiting lists.

Liberal Democrat Max Wilkinson, who is running a campaign for a new GP surgery in the town, said Cheltenham is a growing place that needs more public services.
Liberal Democrat Max Wilkinson, who is running a campaign for a new GP surgery in the town, said Cheltenham is a growing place that needs more public services. -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

“Of course those people who have got bad hips and long term chronic conditions are going to need more GP appointments," he said. “It is regrettable that the Conservatives have left us in a situation where we don’t have enough GPs in this country and many through burnout have been forced to retire early.

“If we are building thousands of homes on the edge of our town which we are then of course we are going to need more GPs. What we can do in Cheltenham, where we have the opportunity, is to get things lined up so that we do have a better deal in future.”

Green Party candidate Daniel Wilson said the town does need new surgeries but they are no good without the doctors needed to run them. He said there is still a huge churn level going in the NHS with doctors leaving through burnout, lack of support and being overworked.

Green Party candidate Daniel Wilson said the town does need new surgeries but they are no good without the doctors needed to run them.
Green Party candidate Daniel Wilson said the town does need new surgeries but they are no good without the doctors needed to run them. -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

“We need to make sure we have the infrastructure to cope as a growing town," he said. “The second thing is we need to make sure the terms and conditions for the doctors are right and proper so they don’t keep leaving the NHS.

“We should be looking to get a fully functioning A&E in this town. We deserve to have 24 hour A&E.

“If you make the political choices, you can find the money. We found the money for other things in recent years. We can find the money for this.”

Conservative Alex Chalk said with the thousands of new homes near GCHQ and at the Elms Park development “as night follows day” there will be more infrastructure. But he said he has yet to find a single GP that tells him bricks and mortar are the solution to their current problems.

“We have a situation at present where it’s not so much that there aren’t trained GPs," he said. "The issue is whether GP practices can afford to take them on as locums.”

Conservative Alex Chalk said he has yet to find a single GP that tells him bricks and mortar are the solution to their current problems.
Conservative Alex Chalk said he has yet to find a single GP that tells him bricks and mortar are the solution to their current problems. While Labour's Lara Chaplin said the country is in a "monumental mess" after 14 years of Tory rule. -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

He said the UK’s healthcare budget is more as a share of GDP than in countries like Sweden “where they are doing very well”.

“It’s about how we calibrate in this vast budget. We’ve got to make sure that money is used more efficiently. What proportion of that goes to primary care.”

While Labour’s Lara Chaplin said all the Tories have done in 14 years is wreck everything. She said it would be great if they could build a new GP surgery but the issue is too complex.

“But there’s no use having an extra GP surgery if you can’t get an appointment. Whatever direction you look at in our country we are in a monumental mess.

“We need to mend everything.”