THE axe is hanging over three GP practices in Dudley, Gornal and Wordsley in a drive by doctors to cut costs and centralise services.

GPs at the Lower Gornal Medical Practice are consulting patients about plans to close their Masefield Road branch, blaming a cut in their budget.

The partners at Wordsley Green Surgery aim to shut their Market Street branch, saying the building "does not lend itself to the provision of modern day general practice services".

And Dr Devanna Manivasagam is poised to merge the St Thomas Medical Centre and Bean Medical Practice in Dudley.

Following the closure of the St Thomas Network, Dudley Council is now the landlord of the St Thomas Medical Centre and, due to uncertainty about the future of the site, a long term lease cannot be offered, says Dudley Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG).

As a result, Dr Manivasagam plans to move the St Thomas practice from December 18 to the existing surgery about a mile away in Bean Road, where a wider range of services could be offered to a total of 3,500 patients.

Gornal Councillor Anne Millward, herself a patient at the Lower Gornal practice's main branch in Bull Street, said two local people had contacted her because they were worried about the loss of the Masefield Road surgery but the smaller branch was "not financially viable".

She added: "There is no chemist on The Straits so patients who at the Masefield Road surgery still have to go into Gornal to get their prescriptions anyway."

Kingswinford South Councillor Patrick Harley said he had received no complaints about the proposed closure of the Market Street surgery.

"I can't see that the doctors there have got any alternative - the lease on the Market Street building is coming to an end and, without major investment, it would not be fit for purpose for 21st century healthcare," he added.

Patients of the Wordsley Green practice have until December 29 to respond to a consultation about the move and those at Lower Gornal have until December 31 to respond.

A letter to patients from the Lower Gornal surgery says the practice budget has been "substantially reduced" due to changes in the doctors' contract, putting them under "financial pressure".

"The partners have looked at many options where savings could be made and how we could continue to provide quality care in the current challenging climate, including reduction in doctors' income, staff losses and reduction in holidays, whilst still trying to improve our efficiencies," says the letter.

"However, although some of these cuts have already taken place, it has not been sufficient."

The Wordsley Green practice partners say that smaller surgeries are not able to provide the services expected of general practice and the "sheer economy of scale" made it difficult to offer a full range at Market Street.

Steve Wellings, chairman of Dudley CC Primary Care Commissioning Committee, said: "At the end of the consultation period the practice may decide to submit a formal application to the CCG on the proposed closures.

"The underlying principle for the CCG to consider if and when any such proposal is made to them is what the benefit is for the patients and what the financial implications are for the CCG."