A CASH-strapped rural medical practice could close unless a new provider can be found to run it. 

Slaidburn Health Centre near Clitheroe is under threat of imminent closure after the current provider East Lancashire Medical Services, said it would pull out next month after running at a loss. 

Campaigners claim officials have let the practice down by spending a year trying – and failing – to find a new operator. 
Patients have set up a Facebook page called ‘Save Slaidburn’ and are now considering launching a crowdfunding appeal to raise the funding shortfall – estimated to be £40,000 a year. 

The practice will close within weeks unless NHS England can find a new provider prepared to run it, with campaigners accusing officials of penalising a remote area which they said would suffer enormously. 

They said it would leave many patients facing a trip of around 10 miles to the nearest practices at Castle Surgery and Pendleside Medical Practice in Clitheroe, while the nearest A&E in the area is in Blackburn, almost an hour away. 

The health centre is currently a five-day-a-week service and serves 1,100 people in the village and surrounding rural areas.

Mike Fairbairn, chairman of the patient participation group at the practice, said: “This is a huge concern and there is real upset at the prospect of it closing.

“This is yet another attack on a rural community which has already lost bus services.”

Lynda Holt, a parish councillor and farmer, said she was desperately concerned for the future of 'a valuable and excellent service'.

She said: “I dread to think what will happen if it closes. Why should we be penalised for living in a remote area?

“If some kind of top-up fund is needed, then it needs to be provided because this community is in a special situation. 

"In Scotland funding is measured differently and rural areas are catered for.”

A number of patients have now sent a letter protesting about the situation to the East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group.

The CCG said the current provider of the service has struggled to remain financially viable and has served notice for the contract to end on September 30 this year. 

It said it has invited GP providers to bid for and secure the service for the health and it hopes to attract bidders with ‘creative approaches’. 

The CCG said in a statement: “The relatively small patient list size means that in order to be financially viable, any provider would have to be creative about how it delivers the service.  

"This would include considering the amount of GP time that was required to meet the needs of the population.  

"Any GP time would need to be complemented with expertise from other health professionals and opportunities through emerging digital technologies.  

"We have invited GP providers to bid for and secure the service for Slaidburn Country Practice and hope to attract bidders with creative approaches. 

“We value our GPs and the services they provide. They play an important role improving the health and wellbeing of people and communities. 

"We anticipate that this process will conclude on Friday, August 30, and we are hopeful that we will be able to find a new provider for the practice.”