Campaign to save Bishop’s Castle surgery gathers momentum

Bishop’s Castle GPs have reported an “amazing and moving response” from patients after it was revealed that they are working without pay to keep the surgery running.
Dr Adrian Fairbanks said he and Dr Sue Lambert had received many personal offers of help and support which had been comforting and encouraging.
The two doctors believe that if the practice closes it would cause immense disruption.
“We feel it is in the public interest to secure patients their surgery, whether or not Sue and I are ‘running’ it,” said Dr Fairbanks.
Bishop’s Castle town councillor Evelyn Bowles has also been campaigning to keep the surgery open.
In response to a report in Castle News she wrote, “The collapse of the practice would be the beginning of a great deal of uncertainty for innocent bystanders, many of them vulnerable patients. The ‘re-assurance’ offered by the PCT that they will provide a service if the practice closes, is not what many patients want to hear. We want the PCT to support the excellent staff we know and value, not stand by while they are driven from their posts by this shabby maneuvering.”
The Primary Care Trust said yesterday that it was continuing to support the practice and hopes “that the issues can be resolved so that their well respected and valued service can continue.” The practice’s patients’ group is understood to have met with PCT staff to discuss the crisis.
Local MP Philip Dunne has written to director of the Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Dr Caron Morton, asking for an update on what steps are being taken to help resolve the situation. The CCG is in the process of taking over responsibility for commissioning primary care services from the PCT.
Dr Adrian Penney, who is a partner in the Bishop’s Castle Medical Practice business, stopped payments to himself and Drs Fairbanks and Lambert from the practice bank account at the beginning of September.
Dr Penney has not responded to requests for his comments.

Please add your comment below. Comments express the views of their authors, not of Castle News. All comments are moderated.

  23 comments for “Campaign to save Bishop’s Castle surgery gathers momentum

  1. sue willmer
    November 10, 2012 at 13:11

    With reference to Nick Blackbourn’s letter and the meeting in January, I believe Dr Penney was at that meeting and had ample opportunity to explain his absence from the practice plus other aspects of the situation. Even when pressed on more than one occasion he chose to remain silent.
    My understanding is that the dispute between the partners has passed through mediation and has gone on to legal proceedings and should be allowed to take its due course.
    The blocking of the doctors wages is intolerable and morally wrong and should be reversed immediately, a feeling held by everyone I and many others have spoken to. This action by Dr. Penney does no good, only harm to everyone including Dr. Penney.

    • Miranda Stanley
      November 17, 2012 at 18:33

      So well put Sue.

      I implore, here in the comments section of Castle News, that Dr Penney, Dr Fairbanks and Dr Lambert agree, TOGETHER:

      to lift the “wage freeze” and allow the proper course of legal action and mediation to unfold.

      to allow the wonderful services supplied to us at Bishop’s Castle Medical Practice to continue.

  2. Bob Fowke
    November 9, 2012 at 14:54

    I’ve read some over-emotional comments on this site but I’ve read nothing defamatory, which has a specific meaning. I see that Nick Blackbourn is a specialist in commercial law and not in law relating to defamation so that may have something to do with it.

  3. Evelyn Bowles
    November 8, 2012 at 11:00

    Nick Blackbourn, subject to Dr. Penney’s agreement, could clarify two other points bearing on the impact on the community of his client’s action in freezing the practice partners’ payments:
    i. Who owns the practice and the building?
    ii.Has Dr. Penney received a regular income from the practice since he ceased working there about 18 months ago?
    I assume that these are facts and not matters of dispute.
    There are two very different sets of answers to these points circulating widely in the town and adding to confusion and anxiety. One version describes the two partners still delivering GP services, as ‘squatters’, who will soon be removed, and describes Dr. Penney as having had no income for 18 months. The other version places ownership in the hands of the 3 current partners and avers that Dr. Penney has made regular monthly drawings from the practice account, as he was entitled to, up to the date when he initiated the freezing of all such payments.
    I would not have asked for clarification had other information about the background to Dr. Penney’s action not been published by Nick Blackbourn, as such matters are normally private.
    However, these contradictory accounts are being shared among townspeople, with one version offered as explanation of the recent action by Dr.Penney which has directly impacted patients, his partners’ families and practice staff and which, some, including myself, feel is already harming them. In the circumstances, ‘no comment’ would seem inadequate. We hope you are able to supply answers.

  4. Evelyn Bowles
    November 7, 2012 at 21:38

    Thank you Castle News for publishing this letter.
    Speaking for myself, as a patient of the surgery, I would like to advise Nick Blackbourn that I have not made any judgement of Dr. Penney as a person nor of the relative merits of either side of the doctors’ dispute, of which I know nothing and wish to know nothing.
    What I do feel justified and free to comment on is the recent action, which Dr.Penney has not denied initiating, namely the freezing of partner drawings from the practice bank account (I did ask him face to face if this were true), which patently threatens to curtail the remaining GP service on which I personally rely. I would describe this as a damaging action to me personally, and I think we patients are entitled to express our views about this.
    Many patients were distressed at losing Dr. Penney’s care. That situation was and perhaps still is reversible and Dr. Penney has, as was his right, had recourse to the avenues open to him to reverse it, as your letter confirms.
    This dispute has already brought distress and anxiety to patients, despite the PCT assurances. People with serious conditions are particularly vulnerable and their dependency on known and trusted doctors can be very high. It could even be critical to their recovery. In an open society it must be possible for citizens to question any action by a person with special responsibilities (Dr. Penney is still a partner of the practice), which risks disrupting such relationships, without being accused of defaming the author of the action.
    If people have expressed themselves intemperately it may be a reflection of the initial shock and dismay the action produced in the community. For myself, I am now trying to focus my attention on facts (having had time to absorb the disappointment the news provoked). It seems entirely predictable that many people would be very upset. It also appears rather draconian to threaten people with legal action for taking the only opportunity open to them to publicly register and share their distress. Please note that I am commenting on your action in sending this letter, instructed, as you make clear, by Dr. Penney himself.
    All I can say is it’s a great shame.

  5. Nick Blackbourn
    November 7, 2012 at 15:06

    Please see below the contents of a letter sent to Castle News on Friday 2nd November and which has since then been subject of further correspondence between us and Castle News.

    Nick Blackbourn,director ,solicitor
    Blackbourn & Bond

    ‘Castle News,
    Jolly Pages,
    23 High Street,
    Bishop’s Castle,
    SY9 5DA
    Date: 02/11/2012
    By email and post
    Copy to Shropshire Star

    Dear Sirs,

    Bishop’s Castle Medical Practice

    We act for Dr Adrian Penney in the matter of the partnership dispute connected with Bishop’s Castle Medical Practice. Another, specialist, firm is dealing with the claims made by his partners to the GMC. He has been advised by that other firm not to speak publicly about those matters while he is dealing with them. That is a long process but is progressing satisfactorily.

    However in light of some of the comments which have been published on your website and related blog he has instructed us to write to you as follows.

    It is understood by Dr Penney why you have been presenting to the public an allegedly accurate picture of his actions and the conclusions that some people have reached as a result. However you have been basing your reporting on inaccurate and incomplete information which presents our client as being the villain of the piece, behaving selfishly and with no care for the people whom he should be serving. We can assure you that nothing is further from the truth.

    Without doubt, some of the statements published on your website amount to defamation and would be actionable in law. We would therefore urge the public to refrain from making such statements when they do not have the full facts available to them.

    Unfortunately, as explained above, we are unable yet to divulge all of the facts. There are however two facts which we feel strongly should be placed in the public domain and which may help the local populace understand the nature of what Dr Penney has been dealing with.

    The first is that on December 19, 2011 Drs Fairbanks and Lambert served on Dr Penney via their lawyers a notice purporting to expel him from the practice immediately that day and denying him access to the surgery. It remains Drs Fairbanks and Lambert’s position that that notice was effective (which we dispute).Dr Penney has stayed away voluntarily since then to minimise disruption while trying to resolve the dispute.

    The second is that at the public meeting called by Drs Fairbanks and Lambert in January 2012 (which was said to be to inform the public) no mention was made of the purported expulsion, even when pressed on more than one occasion as to why Dr Penney was not attending the surgery and when he could be expected back. To our knowledge it has not been mentioned publicly at any time. That can only raise the question why the doctors would keep this information back while continuing to present to the public that they didn’t know the reasons for our client’s absence from the practice.

    The full facts will come out in due course, but until they do we reiterate that it would be wiser and more helpful for the community as a whole for individuals not to leap to wrong conclusions and publish their wrong judgments on our client.

    We request that you publish this letter in full on your website to help redress the situation which has been created.

    Yours faithfully

    Nick Blackbourn
    Director, Solicitor

    Blackbourn & Bond, solicitors

    • November 7, 2012 at 15:16

      Castle News has published this letter at the request of Dr Adrian Penney’s solicitors, but the editor wishes to make clear that she does not agree that there is defamatory material on this website.

      • Karen Bavastock
        November 16, 2012 at 13:42

        Reported in Journal today. I wonder where they got their quotes from!!! Mmmm now let me see!!!!

  6. Miranda Stanley
    November 6, 2012 at 12:22

    I have now been sent the names of the BC Patients’ Group:

    Val Corfield, John Crowe, Julia Dumbell, Jimmy Garnier, Jeremy Hall, Nick Hutchins, Sylvia Payne, Audrey Phillips, Jean Rice.

    Their email address is:

  7. Sally-Ann Hudson
    October 25, 2012 at 18:44

    The details of the dispute with the three doctors is their own private business. However, during the past year or two that it has been going on it is Dr Fairbanks and Dr Lambert who have put patients first by working hard and continuously to provide a continuous and professional service. It is they who have had the stress of dealing with the effects of this dispute, and the pressure of keeping the practice going during the almost continous absence of one third of their partnership. I don’t think anyone wants to have to choose sides, but Dr Penney’s actions in preventing Dr Fairbanks and Dr Lambert from receiving their salaries and thereby threatening the future of the practice is unacceptable,no matter how justified he may feel. I have written to the PCT and Mr Dunne to express my support for Dr Fairbanks and Dr Lambert,and really hope they manage to resolve things, but other than write letters I am not sure what else we as patients can do to help?

    • Trevor Chalkley
      October 30, 2012 at 15:55

      Perhaps people might consider joining the Bishops Castle Patients
      Group. This was set up last year with the encouragement of the Primary Care Trust to support the BC Medical Practice by offering feedback from patients. It is open to anyone who wants to join and there is no limit on numbers. The chair is Nick Hutchins who can be contacted by email

      • Miranda Stanley
        November 2, 2012 at 10:16

        I have asked to join the BC Patient’s Group but been “refused” on the basis that they feel they cannot manage more than 9 members!

        • sue willmer
          November 3, 2012 at 11:30

          I had the same response

  8. Miranda Stanley
    October 22, 2012 at 11:03

    Does anyone know who “The Practice’s Patients Group” are? It would be good to know what they are doing and what information they have of the very latest negotiations etc. So far I have had no responses/further information (apart from acknowledgement of receipt of my emails) from our MP, County Councillor or the GMC.

  9. Miranda Stanley
    October 22, 2012 at 09:33

    Here are quotes/information from the BC Medical Practice website and the NHS website:

    On the BC Medical Practice website Dr Penney’s brief CV is:

    Dr Adrian Penney GMC 2531975 MB,BS,MRCS,LRCP,DFFP – Qualified February 1979, Guys Hospital, London. Dr Penney was born in Bishop’s Castle and feels privileged to be able to return home to work in a rural general practice. He is a generalist but has a special interest in the Community Hospital and palliative care. HE IS ALSO INVOLVED IN REPRESENTING THE NEEDS OF A RURAL COMMUNITY within the health economy of Shropshire and the West Midlands.

    This on the Shropshire NHS /news website:

    All THREE partners at Bishop’s Castle remain EQUALLY responsible for delivering GP services

  10. Jan Arriens
    October 21, 2012 at 17:21

    Might it be possible to mount a patient petition to provide an indication of the strength of feeling? We could say that although we do not know the ins and outs of the situation, we consider it wrong for the partnership agreement to be used in a way that places patients’ welfare at risk, causes widespread anxiety and creates uncertainty for the staff, and that we therefore call on Dr Penney to lift his block on payments to the partners.

    • sue willmer
      October 22, 2012 at 07:39

      I think this is a very sensible suggestion.

  11. Karen Bavastock
    October 20, 2012 at 21:02

    So true. The practice is the staff within the practice and we can only urge the PCT to support those staff who have been so committed to our patient care.

  12. Polly Peters
    October 20, 2012 at 15:46

    As a patient and member of the wider community I have absolutely no interest in Dr Penney’s personal justification for his autocratic actions in regard to the freezing of the partners’ bank account. For it is just that: personal and therefore pertinent only to him. His action on the other hand moves from the personal to the collective – in terms of collective potential impact on an entire community of patients. I fail to see how any single person could possibly feel justified in undertaking an action that could result in vulnerable patients losing the support, insight, care and understanding of the doctors and nurses currently treating them.
    I am pleased to see that the PCT is ‘continuing to support the practice.’ Though, like Evelyn Bowles I too ‘want the PCT to support the excellent staff we know and value’.

  13. Miranda Stanley
    October 17, 2012 at 17:02

    Perhaps Dr Penney’s legal advisor would make a statement on his behalf?

  14. Kate Evans
    October 17, 2012 at 14:57

    It is most frustrating not to be given any reasons from Dr Penney for his draconian action in this matter – it is hinted by people close to him, that we don’t know the half of it, implying he has some justification for putting his – yes, they are still his – patients at risk – and for putting his friends and supporters in an awful dilemma as to whether to defend him and his continuing silence, or join with the majority and say ‘Dr Penney, what on earth are you up to???’
    I believe he says he has been warned to say nothing so presumably there may be legal implications for him if he speaks out, but I still feel he owes all of us, even a minimal explanation in defence of his action.

  15. Tara Lewis
    October 17, 2012 at 13:24

    Thank you very much, Castle News, for keeping us up-to-date. Here’s to hoping the situation is resolved very soon, and that the excellent Drs Fairbanks and Lambert are paid for their services which are greatly appreciated. They are fantastic and it would be horrendous for our community to lose their care due to, as stated above, the ‘shabby manoeuvring’ of one individual.

  16. Miranda Stanley
    October 17, 2012 at 12:46

    I, and I am sure all the surgery’s patients, will be reassured by the latest updates on the surgery crisis ,as reported by Castle News, that the PCT, Practice’s Patient Group, local MP and County Councillor are all trying to help our doctors and staff secure the surgery’s future (together with it’s present team).

    I hope that we will hear VERY soon of a settlement.

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