TWO Southampton GP surgeries which serve more than 20,000 patients between them are planning to merge due to “difficulties with GP recruitment”.

The Bath Lodge Practice in Commercial Street and Chessel Practice are looking to become one practice, which will affect 10,328 registered patients at Bath Lodge.

Chessel Practice has two sites, one in Sullivan Road, Sholing, and a branch site in Chessel Avenue, Bitterne.

Critics of the move include MP for Itchen, Royston Smith, who believes the plan will result in a worse service for patients.

Others fear the merge will make it harder for elderly patients to travel to appointments.

Royston Smith said: “We have been here before with mergers and I do not think they are working well, because people are not getting more appointments. They are not being offered evening and weekend appointments, which they should be.

“I am not pleased that Bath Lodge is looking to merge with Chessel Practice and I have had enough of this. I do not believe these mergers give more choice and options for patients to access these services. It gives them less.”

One resident said: “Bath Lodge are sending text messages to patients about this plan and if you ask lots of elderly people to travel to these new locations they are not going to be able to do it.

“This will have a huge impact on patients and I have not been consulted about it. I have spoken to other patients who are anxious about it and if the Bath Lodge is shut down there would be an uproar, because you cannot expect people to commute.

“My parents are patients there and they will not be able to get to Chessel Practice and all of the other GPs are bursting at the seams.”

Another resident said: “It’s a nightmare trying to get an appointment at Chessel in general and I cannot see how them merging will improve that. Yes, there will be more doctors, but there will be a lot more patients too.”

In a statement, the practices said the move will create a “stronger team” with a “wider range of services”.

A spokesperson for NHS Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We recognise that across the country GPs are looking into new ways of working, in light of the challenges they face.

“Nonetheless decisions like this need to be made with the input of patients who will be affected by the changes.”

There will be a patient information session on June 13 at Chessel Practice, Chessel Avenue, which will run from 6pm to 8pm.