A TOWN divide over where to build an urgently-needed new GP surgery looks set to delay its opening.

Health bosses in Bicester have said the £15m super surgery must be built in order to care for the rapidly-growing population.

The hub, which would see four surgeries in the town close and force thousands of patients to travel to a new facility, was due to open in Spring 2022.

However after a packed meeting this week to discuss the plans, it became clear the town is split between the two possible locations: Kingsmere or Graven Hill.

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Around 200 people crammed into the John Paul II Centre on Wednesday to discuss the plans by Alchester Medical Group, with many arguing that the surgery should be built in their area.

Carole Heatherington, chairman of the Langford Village Community Association, said that with much of the town's new infrastructure being built near the Kingsmere development, the new surgery should go on the Graven Hill self-build estate.

She told the meeting: “We know there are problems with Bicester Village already, there’s a lot of extra stress being put on that hamburger roundabout and everything’s going in a very compact area of Bicester.

“I know there’s a lot of concern in Langford that schools, secondary schools – everything really is going on the other side of Bicester.”

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However, Kingsmere residents argued that there had long been plans to put a health centre on the development.

One resident said after the meeting: “We feel cheated.

“When we moved in, all the paperwork, all the brochures said there would be a health centre – that’s one of the reasons we moved there.

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"Now they’re saying they’ve got the option but might build it somewhere else.”

With the town split, Alchester Medical Group and Montgomery House Surgery spokesman Chris A'Court confirmed GPs were still considering both sites, but admitted the 2020 opening was now unlikely.

He said: "The 2020 opening was based on us having made a decision around now.

"With that not being the case, that timeframe is likely to slip."

Under the proposed scheme, Langford Medical Practice and Victoria House Surgery – both run by Alchester – would move into a new site with Montgomery-House Surgery and Ambrosden Surgery.

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Montgomery House Surgery in Bicester.

With surgeries struggling to hire and hold onto GPs, bosses say the existing smaller surgery model is no longer viable, with practices now moving to larger sites with more patients in a bid to secure more NHS funding.

Just this month, Montgomery House Surgery stopped taking new patients because of a staff shortage.

And, with an additional 30,000 people expected to be living in Bicester in the coming years, GPs say the new 2.5-acre ‘super surgery’ is vital if they are to continue to care for the town.

In light of the likely delay, Bicester South and Ambrosden councillor Dan Sames said it was important that a decision was made soon – whichever site was chosen.

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He said: “It needs to be done sooner rather than later.

“I think the fact that Montogomery House suspended new patients and the issues with GP recruitment show we need to tackle this and we need to do something.

“Great new premises can only be a good for health practitioners to aid their recruitment and retention and the quicker a decision can be made the better.”

Doctors hope the new surgery will eventually boast a wide range of health services including a minor injuries unit, X-rays and mental health practitioners.

Health chiefs are already looking at options to improve transport links to whichever site is chosen, including talks with Oxford Bus Company over an on-demand bus service.

Cherwell district councillor for Bicester South and Ambrosden Nick Cotter, whose ward covers both potential sites, said: “People are rightly concerned about where the new facility will be.

“My preference would be Graven Hill because I think that will take away the pressure on the Kingsmere area which is already a problem.

"Both sites have their plus and minus points and whichever site is chosen it will have to go through the planning process.”