GP hubs: Much-needed investment or a ‘con trick’
Plus, a legendary Sheffield film returns to TV screens
Good afternoon readers — and welcome to our Monday briefing.
Last week we heard that Sheffield health bosses want to build five new doctors’ surgeries in the city — but close 15 others at the same time. In this edition, we take a closer look at the proposals and speak to some people who have concerns about what is being planned.
We also have all our usual recommended reads and things to do including a nice retro piece about two Sheffield fast food institutions and a great new city centre art gallery trail that has been devised by the good people at top Sheffield listings site Our Favourite Places.
Catch up and coming up
Our great weekend piece by David Bocking about how our neighbourhoods will be redesigned to benefit pedestrians and cyclists went down really well — although it’s fair to say that many of you really didn’t like the headline. We very much value your opinions and feedback and are happy to hold up our hands when we’ve got something wrong. We hope it didn’t spoil your enjoyment of the article too much.
Last week we sent out two great newsletters to our 620 paying members. In the first, we dived into the niche world of historical medieval battle where competitors fight each other with steel weapons in full suits of armour. And in the second I reviewed The Felling, a new documentary film about the Sheffield tree protests which opens at the Showroom this week. An extract from that second piece is below.
“When Eve Wood came on board as director and editor in 2020, she wasn't initially sure what kind of film it was going to be. But after watching and rewatching hours and hours of video, she realised she had something very significant on her hands. “The more I looked at the footage the more I thought it could be a big film,” she says. “We knew that we had to do our best with it. The story needed to be told.”
This week we’ll send out two more including a look back at The Tribune's first year — 12 months after we published our first newsletter. To get both of those and help secure our long-term future, please consider subscribing using the button below. It costs just £1.34 a week if you pay for the year upfront (£70).
This week’s weather
Our weather forecast comes from dedicated Sheffield weather service Steel City Skies, who say: “The gloriously fine spell of early spring weather had to end at some point, and it ends with a real shock to the system as our temperatures plummet.”
Monday ⛅️ A day similar to Sunday with higher cloud amounts than the week just gone. Pleasant bright spells coming through though and reasonably mild, too. Dry with light winds.
Tuesday 🌥 Low cloud and murk looks to be more prevalent with some parts staying dull all day. Maybe a few brighter spells though. Cooler with easterly breezes more noticeable.
Wednesday ☂️ Increasingly dull and damp, as well as considerably colder. Patchy rain will increase in persistence during the day, turning wintry over high ground. Icy overnight.
Thursday 🌬 A cold but bright day with a mixture of sunshine and blustery showers, the heavier of which be a mix of rain, sleet, wet snow or hail. Feeling barely above freezing.
Friday ⛅️ A similar day with northerly winds really feeling rather raw. Good spells of sun but showers as well, perhaps not as frequent as Thursday but potentially wintry all the same.
Summary: April begins on a rather wintry note but while the potential to see some sleet/snow has increased, the chance of any significant disruption remains very low.
The big story: Are GP hubs a much-needed investment or a ‘con trick’
Top line: Sheffield CCG has opened a public consultation on £37m plans to redesign GP services in the city. The plans would pay for five new health centres to be built but lead to the closure of 15 others.
The detail: The five health new centres would be built in three areas in the city. One in the city centre, two in the Shiregreeen, Firth Park, Southey Green and Parson Cross area, and two in the Burngreave, Pitsmoor, Firvale and Page Hall area.
The CCG says the new health centres offer an opportunity to improve access to care for people in these areas and a better environment for the staff working there.
They added that GP buildings in the areas identified haven’t been modernised for years or are just not big enough to provide a wide enough range of services.
New services: CCG bosses say the plans would mean 100,000 people in the city would benefit from modern premises and a wider range of services. These include more clinical and interview rooms, mental health support, physiotherapy, blood tests and minor surgery.
Reaction: However, Crookes and Crosspool Labour Councillor Ruth Milsom said that the consultation was “deeply flawed” and full of leading questions. She added she believed that the idea of GP hubs was more about saving money than improving patient care. She told The Tribune:
If you ask patients "is more investment needed in GP services?" and "is building new GP health centres a good idea?" of course people will answer "yes". If the engagement exercise actually came clean about the fact that each proposed new 'health hub' is tied in with closing and relocating several existing neighbourhood GP practices, I'm pretty sure you'd get predominantly negative responses. If we don't call out these plans for the con-trick they are, we are putting our most vulnerable citizens at risk.
Pros and cons: We also spoke to Dr Andrew Lee, reader in public health at the University of Sheffield, about the rationale for larger GP hubs. He said there were pros and cons to the idea but that investment in many of the practices under consideration was long overdue.
He said that bigger practices may feel more impersonal and patients may not get to see the same doctor they are used to.
There is also the loss of convenience for those who may have to travel further, which may affect vulnerable people most.
But Dr Lee also added that there could also be many benefits to merging practices into larger hubs. He told The Tribune:
Larger GP hubs have the potential for economies of scale, such as through consolidating back room functions, which could help make best use of limited health resources. Larger hubs are also more likely to be resilient, for example when a few staff are off sick in a small practice this can really affect their ability to deliver services whilst bigger hubs are less likely to be affected. Several of the smaller practices have struggled in this regard in recent years.
Bottom line: In an era of perpetual austerity, changes and reorganisations are inevitably seen through the prism of cuts and mistrust. An investment of £37m is clearly needed in many areas but taking away people’s local health services is bound to be unpopular with some.
To take part in the consultation, visit the NHS Sheffield CCG website.
Home of the week
This two-bedroomed stone cottage near Nether Edge dates from the 1850s and is situated in a desirable location looking out onto Brincliffe Woods. It is on the market for £340,000.
Our favourite reads
A nice review by Sheffield food blogger Martin Dawes of a newish Italian restaurant on Abbeydale Road. North Town opened before the pandemic and is the brainchild of Gian Bohan from Nonna’s on Ecclesall Road. Dawes has lunch and dinner at the Neapolitan-inspired eatery and comes away impressed by both the atmosphere and the food.
Huge news from the entertainment world this morning that a new TV series of The Full Monty is in the works. The Oscar-winning film, which is 25 years old this year, told the story of a group of unemployed steelworkers who turn to stripping to make ends meet. The TV series will be shown on Disney+ and will include the original cast.
A lovely piece in The Star by publisher Neil Anderson about two long-lost Steel City takeaway institutions. Converted blue Austin van Greasy Vera’s sat on waste ground overlooking the city centre on Corporation Street from the 1970s to the 1990s while Chubby’s on Cambridge Street served thousands of city clubbers from 1979 to 2020.
Could building up could solve Sheffield’s housing crisis?
These great gifs from University of Sheffield PhD candidate Charles Gillott caught our eye this week. Gillott is writing his thesis about how the vertical extension of existing buildings could help tackle the housing crisis. He was also interviewed on BBC Radio Sheffield about it last week (from 16:22).
Gillott’s study has found that there are around 30,000 buildings in Sheffield alone that could be adapted in this way, potentially providing accommodation for 175,000 people. He told the university’s press office that vertically extending buildings by just two storeys could rejuvenate city centres while meeting net-zero targets and the growing demand for housing. For more gifs see this thread.
Things to do
Art: Sheffield is blessed with a wide range of great art spaces and galleries, from grand and imposing Graves to the more bijou surroundings of The Social on Snig Hill. Now, Our Favourite Places have created a great art trail featuring all 12 of the city centre arts spaces. The trail includes a map of where to find them all and a lovely description of each.
Book: The Politics of Street Trees, a new book edited by University of Sheffield academics Camilla Allen and Jan Woudstra, looks at both the history of urban forests and how they are managed today. I met Camilla at The Felling premiere last week and her book sounds absolutely fascinating. It also includes several chapters about the street trees of Sheffield.
Photography: Over the next week, the Anglican cathedral will play host to the Sheffield Photographic Society’s annual exhibition. Approximately 170 images are included in the show covering categories including juniors, beginners, photo essay, natural history, and more. Members of the society will be on hand throughout to answer people’s questions.
Film: The Felling will begin a week-long run at the Showroom on Friday, April 1. There will be seven showings of the film between Friday and the following Thursday including one with an added Q+A session with joint filmmakers Jacqui Bellamy and Eve Wood. On Saturday, Simon Crump will also be launching Persons Unknown (the book he wrote with Calvin Payne) at the same venue.
Visit: Boats will return to Cannon Hall Park and Gardens this week for just the second time in 70 years. The lakes were opened up again last year after a year-long project to de-silt them and this year rowing boats and pedalos will again be available for hire from April 1 (until the end of October). Local democracy reporter Danielle Andrews has all the details.