DOCTORS have insisted a village surgery will remain open, despite suggestions they were seeking to shut it down ‘by stealth’.

Last year, Skerne Medical Group (SMG) won support to shut its Trimdon Village site but lost out on proposals to close its surgery in Fishburn.

The organisation said it needed to go from four sites down to two due to staffing and recruitment problems. It also runs sites in Sedgefield and Trimdon Colliery.

At last week’s meeting of Durham County Council’s Adults, Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Coun Jude Grant suggested it was trying to close the clinic anyway, despite the decision of both NHS Durham Dales  Easington and Sedgefield and North Durham’s Clinical Commissioning Groups.

Coun Grant’s concerns followed reports that the Fishburn surgery had been shut and patients had been unable to get appointments.

She said: “The primary care committee told them [SMG] not to close Fishburn and [they seem to have] closed Fishburn by stealth.“It seems like they have just ignored what everyone said.”

SMG has insisted a temporary closure of the Fishburn surgery, in Butterwick Road, was needed due to a ‘critical’ staffing situation.

A spokesman for the group said: “Circumstances left us with very limited options for managing our service safely from that time.

“We offer ten full-time sessions at Sedgefield and Trimdon Colliery, and sessions are then allocated to Fishburn based on the clinical staff who are available.

“As we outlined during the public engagement process and in communications before and after that, safe clinical care is best provided by concentrating resources until such time that we have more abundant staffing.

“Our top priority is to manage our practice so that all of our patients can continue to access GP and other clinical services from one of our sites.”