THE long-term fate of three troubled surgeries which were told to make urgent improvements or face the threat of closure will be decided by December.

In July NHS bosses gave Frinton Road Medical Practice, in Holland-on-Sea, Epping Close Surgery, in Clacton, and Green Elms Medical Centre, in Jaywick, 28 days to make adequate changes.

If they failed to comply, the practices, which are all run by health provider Anglian Community Enterprise, were warned they could be shut down or taken over by a different provider.

The ultimatum came following a change of management at the Caradoc Surgery, in Frinton, and reports of fed-up patients being made to wait more than 30 minutes to book appointments, order prescriptions and get test results.

After the notice period passed, the trio of surgeries were told they would remain open, but North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group would be keeping a close eye on the situation.

The governing board, however, has now announced that long-term leadership arrangements and the future of the practices will be decided by December.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive for the North East Essex CCG said: “We are determined to drive improvements for our patients to the services provided by these three practices.

“ACE is working very hard on implementing improvements and we will be working to ensure that by December we secure sustainable long-term leadership for these three practices.”

Despite appearing to turn a corner and working to better its surgeries, there is no guarantee that ACE will retain control over the practices come the end of the year.

Between now and the decision date, the CCG will be shortlisting alternative primary care services which could take over should either party wish to terminate the current contract.

Holland-on-Sea councillor Joy Broderick said she wouldn’t be against ACE remaining in charge if a good service for patients could be assured.

She said: “I am pleased the CCG is looking into this because the anxiety of getting an appointment is making people ill.

“If ACE can guarantee it will make the surgeries better, then fine, because there might not be another provider - then we really will be in trouble.”

Clacton MP Giles Watling welcomed the announcement.

He said: “This is excellent progress, especially given that the remedy to ACE’s poor service has, so far, been painfully slow.

“But we are now seeing very real and tangible change.

“I also thank all residents for their patience, and I hope that by December there is an agreement in place for the three practices to be under improved leadership, so residents can benefit from the improvements we have already seen at Caradoc.

“I understand that at Caradoc there was clear evidence to justify an immediate termination, whereas the other surgeries required a slightly different, but still very robust approach.”