TEMPERS frayed on Monday night as a scrutiny committee into the sudden closure of Sankey Medical Centre left many residents frustrated.

Patients demanded answers from the NHS England area team after being given a few weeks notice the Barrow Hall Lane surgery would close and patients would have to travel 4.5 miles to Orford.

But Glenn Coleman, head of primary care, said there had not been a breach of contract and they were ‘totally taken by surprise’ and only found about the move from the neighbouring pharmacy Medicx.

Angry cries of ‘Why not?’ rang out from the packed council chamber as Mr Coleman confirmed another doctor could not be moved into the empty building.

He added: “It was not our decision to close the surgery and we don't have the legal powers to open it.

“Nobody does.

“We can only do what's legal and are bound by EU procurement law.

“Our processes are laboriously slow and it frustrates us in the system.

“It takes 12 months to commission a primary care service and we’re at the one-month stage.

“The problem of practices not being part of the contract was one the NHS inherited and contracts are being renegotiated as part of a primary care review.”

Residents were further exasperated by claims the majority of patients had not moved to other practices as they repeated complaints there was no where for them to go.

One upset woman also claimed it had taken her four hours to reach the surgery in Orford including an hour’s walk.

Patients were told the list at Chapelford had been re-opened and if anyone was told it had closed should contact NHS England or Mr Coleman.

Throughout the meeting ‘I agree’ was the most common phrase from the NHS man as he listened to residents’ frustrations with few answers other than moving to another surgery.

A glimmer of hope came in the form of a doctor from a St Helens practice standing up to say they were keen to discuss extending their catchment area in Burtonwood to include Great Sankey’s abandoned patients.

Discussions still also have to take place regarding plans for a surgery at Great Sankey Leisure Centre.

Speaking after the meeting, Clr Tony Higgins added: “As chairman of the scrutiny committee, I want to express my total displeasure at the lack of empathy shown towards the patients of the now defunct GP practice in Great Sankey and to their health and wellbeing.

“Their questions were answered with typical NHS fudge and a total disregard which was made more shocking when you consider that the health service is meant to be a caring service.”