"We won't let them stop us" vow staff at Halifax practice following attack by vandals

Mandy McCarron, reception supervisor and Tracy Bell, practice manager
Mandy McCarron, reception supervisor and Tracy Bell, practice manager

"We won't let them stop us" - that is the defiant message from staff at Plane Trees Group Practice after an arson attempt on the premises.

Vandals attacked the practice and the adjoining pharmacy on Saturday, May 18 - something which was spotted by a neighbour, whose quick thinking in alerting the emergency services saved the buildings from being irreparably damaged.

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

But staff at the practice say the response from their patients has been heartwarming, and they are determined to carry on as normal.

"Our patients have been very supportive," said Mandy McCarron, reception supervisor who has worked at the practice for 10 years, "and they've been watching for us, to see if anyone's been in the car park on an evening."

"We have a really good relationship with our patients," said Tracy Bell, practice manager who has worked at the practice for nearly 16 years, "We've got a really good reputation as a practice, and we don't want to let this stop us from doing what we do.

"We're remaining positive, and we won't be drawn into it. Clean up, carry on - that's what we'll do.

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

"We've got lots of things planned - more community activities, look at doing a community allotment, a walking group.

"We do a lot of good work and we want that to carry on. We won't let them stop us."

Tracy says the practice, which along with the pharmacy has been open since 1994, has worked closely with the Home Office and Calderdale Council in working with Syrian vulnerable families.

The practice held a collection for charity Focus For Hope, which saw patients donate everything from deodorants and soup to blankets and scarves.

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

Vandalism at Plane Trees Group Practice in Halifax

The practice has made several improvements to the premises over recent years, including lighting, the car park and the gardens, and have increased their security since the incident.

"They'd set fire to the large waste bin which was against the wall of the pharmacy, which then set everything else on fire," said Tracy.

"In the same evening, one of the consulting room windows at the back of the practice was out through as well.

"Luckily one of the neighbours spotted it at around 7.30pm and called the fire service.

"If it hadn't been spotted, it would have been catastrophic. The pharmacy has burnt under the wooden fascias, but it would have gone up.

"Without any doubt, the fire would have caught the bushes, and it then would have connected to the practice.

"It could have caused us to close the surgery and move."

It is thought the total repair bill could run to £3,000.

Tracy said there have also been some incidents in recent days of vandals scratching paintwork on cars belonging to staff and patients.

"That makes me really angry," said Mandy. "How could people do that? Where does it come from?

"The vehicles and the practice have done no damage to anyone else, so I don't understand why it's happened.

"All the staff live and work round here, it's our community as well."

"I'm really disappointed to think people would do that," said Tracy. "What does it achieve? It's intentional vandalism.

"There's a possibility it could be patients of ours doing this.

"We don't want to have to stop patients parking here, or start parking miles away, because that's not fair to people."

Plane Trees will be holding a Practice Champions event at St Columbas Church in Pellon on Wednesday, June 12 in conjunction with Altogether Better.

So far, 58 patients have expressed an interested in becoming Patient Champions, which involves them visiting fellow patients who may feel lonely and arranging group health walks.

"We have a lot of house-bound patients," said Tracy. "Our nurses do home visits regularly, but if patients come to the surgery - with help from Patient Champions or maybe a community transport service - we might have a 'knit and natter' going on or they can stay for a cup of tea, and it gets them out into the community."

In a statement, West Yorkshire Police said: "Police were called to reports of an arson at a medical centre on Sandbeds Rd, Pellon, Halifax, which occurred between May 17 and 20.

"It is believed a window was smashed before the interior was set alight leaving parts of the property damaged.

"A further offence of arson was also recorded at the pharmacy in the same location on May 18 where a wheelie bin was set alight outside, causing external damage to the building.

"Any witnesses to the incident or anyone with information is asked to contact the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."