A VITAL rural medical practice which had been under threat of closure has been saved.

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

The potential closure of the health centre, which is currently a five-day-a-week service and serves 1,100 people in the village and surrounding rural areas, sparked fears from patients that they would face 10 mile trips to Clitheroe to see a GP.

But East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) confirmed on Tuesday morning that it has appointed Bowland Health Ltd to provide the GP service at the health centre for a period of two years.

The CCG said in a statement: "Following a comprehensive and rigorous procurement process, the CCG has invited Bowland Health Ltd to provide the GP service at Slaidburn Country Practice.

"The medical director of Bowland Health Ltd is Dr Amy Bonner and we are delighted that she has accepted.

"Dr Bonner has over 9 years of experience in general practice and has worked as a locum in Slaidburn and Clitheroe.

"Dr Bonner, who lives near to the practice, knows the area very well and has a good understanding of the health needs of local people.

"Her clinical interests include lifestyle medicine, and health promotion, and she is passionate about helping people to live healthily and well."

The CCG said there will be a period of transition and hand over from the existing GP provider, to the new GP service and that the handover will prioritise continuity for the patients.

It added that the service will run as usual for patients.

Dr Amy Bonner, medical director of Bowland Health Ltd, said she was delighted and honoured to be given the opportunity to run the practice.

She said: "Being local to the area, I appreciate the vital nature of a reliable primary care service in this rural setting.

"At Bowland Health we hope to build on the existing surgery and achieve sustainable healthcare for the local people into the future”.

Ribble Valley's MP Nigel Evans hailed the continuation of services at the practice as a 'community triumph' but he urged caution.

He added: “Although the signing of this contract is fantastic news, I do not wish to see any diminution of service at the facility and will continue to apply pressure to the relevant bodies to ensure the long-term future of Slaidburn Medical Centre is secured.” 

The patient representative, Mike Fairbairn, chairman of Slaidburn Country Practice Patient Participation Group who had voiced concerns about a lack of action from the CCG in finding a new operator, said: “I was pleased to be involved in the procurement evaluation run by the CCG.

"It is important that the voice of the patient is heard, particularly in the case of Slaidburn Practice where people are extremely concerned about the potential loss of the service.

“The CCG has tried hard to get the best possible GP service for Slaidburn and surrounding areas.

"As a result of this I am optimistic for the future of Slaidburn Country Practice and look forward to supporting Dr Bonner in her leadership of the practice as well as working towards a long-term solution for maintaining the practice as an integral part of our rural communities," he added.