PLANS to close a village clinic in Caerphilly county borough have been met with anger by the community it currently serves.

Risca Surgery has told Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) that it would be “unsustainable” to keep its Cwmfelinfach branch after failing to attract new GPs to staff the surgery.

If the clinic were to close, patients from Cwmfelinfach and Ynysddu would have to rely on the Risca practice for appointments.

But the proposals have stoked contention amongst residents, councillors and the local AM, with more than 100 people packing into a public meeting at the village’s community centre.

Cwmfelinfach clinic

Concerns were raised about patients – particularly the elderly and vulnerable – having to rely on “poor” public transport to get to Risca Surgery only to be left waiting long hours to be seen.

Helen Slatter was one of several residents to say they were already experiencing issues organising and attending appointments at Risca Surgery.

“I was sat down there for four hours waiting to be seen. I can’t afford to lose four hours of work, and neither can my husband,” said Mrs Slatter on Tuesday.

Some residents said the closure of the clinic would take away a “familiarity” with Cwmfelinfach branch staff, while also potentially affecting the future of the village’s pharmacy.

The meeting also heard of the public health problem in the Lower Sirhowy Valley area, which appeared in the lowest six per cent of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation.

One resident said: “The surgery needs to be reminded about the gentleman the local health board is named after. [Risca Surgery] is taking on a community that does not take to these things lying down.”

Allan Sharpe, a pharmacist elsewhere in the borough, said: “The NHS started in this valley and if this clinic is withdrawn, it would be the abandonment of Nye Bevan’s dreams.”

Gareth Thomas, practice manager at Risca Surgery, had previously described the situation as “awful” but said there was a need to pool resources at the “fully integrated” practice.

Ynysddu councillor John Ridgewell, who was joined at the meeting by fellow Labour councillor Philippa Marsden, said representatives from the surgery had been invited but chose not to attend.

The meeting also heard that Mr Thomas claimed that Risca Surgery staff had been confronted by “intimidating behaviour” by patients from the Ynysddu area while issuing flu vaccines last weekend.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Ridgewell said: “The alleged behaviour is completely unacceptable. Emotions are running high but we need to exercise restraint”.

Rhianon Passmore, Labour AM for Islwyn, urged those in attendance to complete the consultation, which runs until November 14, and spread the word.

“We need to mobilise to ensure our strength of feeling is put across, as some of these issues are quite shocking,” said Ms Passmore.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Thomas said that it had been agreed between Cllrs Ridgewell and Marsden, together with GP partner Dr Sian Williamns, that their attendance at the meeting was not required.

"We understood that the objective of the public meeting was to allow people the opportunity to express their concerns and gather community opinion to channel this through to ABUHB," he said.

"It was agreed that the Councillors would collect information and statements to feed this back to us in a follow-up meeting to be arranged in due course."

Mr Thomas' also refuted claims that any patient at Risca Surgery had been forced to wait four hours to be seen.