HEALTH bosses have given assurances that Palmer Community Hospital in Jarrow has a future.
The pledge came yesterday during a public meeting at the Customs House in South Shields over the restructuring of urgent care services in South Tyneside.
NHS chiefs are looking to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to A&E, which officials say could save them up to £2m a year.
NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group – the body responsible for the planning and buying of health services in the borough – is holding a 12-week public consultation on proposals which include the creation a new urgent care “one-stop shop” at South Tyneside District Hospital and the closure of Jarrow Walk-In Centre, in the grounds of Palmer Community Hospital, from May 2015.
Local people had been invited to the meeting to hear how access and treatment can be “significantly improved by the proposed changes.
And Dr Matthew Walmsley, GP lead with South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responded to a question from the floor on the long-term viability of Palmer’s.
He said: “I know there have been rumours around the town about Palmer closing down but we have no plans to close Palmer Hospital.
“I know that the long-stay wards that were based at Palmer Hospital gradually had fewer and fewer people in them.
“I know that the hospital Trust’s decision that the cover for those wards on the site of Palmer’s was no longer viable and that they had to close those wards and move people to the main hospital site.
“That operational decision was made by South Tyneside Foundation Trust, but certainly we’ve got no plans to close Palmer Community Hospital.”
Dr David Hambleton, chief officer of NHS South Tyneside CCG, added: “We are also thinking about what, if the walk-in centre is vacated, would make sense to put in there, and we are exploring whether it would be a good base, for example, for the community mental health team.”
South Tyneside CCG started the public consultation on May 28 for 12 weeks and is asking for views on a range of proposals that will help local doctors and nurses provide the best possible care for patients with an urgent care need.
According to the CCG, 56,508 patients were seen and treated at South Tyneside General Hospital A&E in 2012/13, at a cost of £5.3m.
Of those, 33,379 attendances – 60 per cent of patients – didn’t need any treatment at all and were given verbal or written advice and reassurance.
The phrase ‘urgent care’ means any form of medical care that is needed quickly but does not require a hospital stay or visit to accident and emergency (A&E). It might be a minor injury, or a sudden onset of an illness where seeing a pharmacist, nurse or GP for medical advice or treatment is needed.
The sorts of services included are the NHS 111 telephone service, GP practices, GP out of hours (for when GP practices are shut), community pharmacies and walk-in centres.
The Customs House will stage the next public consultation meeting on the proposals next Tuesday, from 1.30pm to 3pm.