Plans to merge two major GPs surgeries in Leighton Buzzard have been put on hold as NHS England rules further patient consultation is necessary.
The plans by Leighton House Surgery and Grovebury Road surgery were put before the contracts panel of NHS England in January.
The surgeries argued that it was necessary to pool together their resources in the face of NHS cuts.
Plans were for the merger to come into effect in April, but NHS England said that the move – which would affect more than 22,000 patients – needs further consultation.
Di Pegg, head of primary care for NHS England in Bedfordshire, said: “We have advised them that a decision cannot be made until they have sought the views of patients though a patient engagement exercise.
“The results of this exercise will be forwarded to us for consideration, following which a final decision will be made.
“As part of the decision-making process, we will take into account the benefits to patients at both surgeries and also the impact it may, or may not, have on neighbouring practices.
“NHS England is committed to ensuring patients have access to safe, quality care.”
The proposals for the merger would see the two surgeries combine to form “The Leighton Partnership” sharing the same back office staff and making use of both surgeries’ facilities.
Partners state this will result in a larger team of doctors and nurses, with better cover during staff leave or sickness.
And as well as a drop-in blood test clinic, the proposals would also see “enhanced clinics” for patients with chronic illnesses as well as for family planning and sexual health.
The surgeries also state there would be no compulsory redundancies or closure of buildings.
In response to the decision by NHS England, a Leighton Road Surgery spokesman said: “Both Leighton Road Surgery and Grovebury Road Surgery have been informed of the merger decision by NHS England and have commenced their patient engagement exercise.
“Once complete, the results will be forwarded to NHS England for their final decision.
“It is the intention of both surgeries to ensure that patients have access to safe, quality care.
“The merger of the two surgeries will safeguard the future of GP services in Leighton Buzzard.”