PLANS to axe a hospital walk-in service should be dropped, according to Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn.
Mr Hepburn has voiced strong opposition to proposals to close the Jarrow Walk-In Centre at Palmer Community Hospital, in Wear Street.
The closure plan is one of several being floated as part of a health service shake-up aimed at reducing unnecessary visits to accident-and-emergency units in a bid to save £2m a year.
If the proposals get the go-ahead, the town centre unit could shut by next May, but Mr Hepburn said he is “totally opposed” to the closure plans.
He said: “This proposal is simply a no-go for me. I want to know what criteria are being used to close Jarrow Walk-In Centre.
“I believe that service is well-used and vital to Jarrow, as people can walk in off the street with minor injuries or complaints and receive treatment.
“This means far more serious conditions can sometimes be picked up by the medical staff.
“While I do appreciate that the NHS is under tremendous financial pressure because of Government cuts, I don’t think we should be looking at shutting down front-line services like this.”
The closure of Jarrow Walk-In Centre is one of several proposals put forward after latest statistics revealed that 60 per cent of patients seen at the borough’s A&E department, at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields, do not require treatment.
NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group is carrying out a 12-week consultation exercise about the shake-up plans, also including improving access to GPs and pharmacies for minor illnesses and ailments and the creation of a new urgent care one-stop shop at the Harton Lane hospital.
Coun Moira Smith, a ward member for Primrose in Jarrow, said: “My first reaction to this proposal is ‘Oh no!’
“I should think there will be quite a lot of local opposition to this, as I believe the walk-in service at Palmer Community Hospital is well used.”
Jarrow Walk-In Centre provides fast access to health information, advice and treatment for minor injuries and illnesses, without having to book an appointment.
People are able to walk into the centre, and the aim is for them to be seen by a clinician within 30 minutes of arrival, although they may have to wait longer at busy times.
Assessment, advice and treatment for a full range of minor illnesses and injuries is provided, and patients can then be referred to the Jarrow hospital’s minor injuries unit, if necessary. An x-ray service is also available, if required.
Commissioning group chief officer Dr David Hambleton said: “Our consultation document clearly states that the reasons for the planned closure are that the service has not taken any pressure off the local A&E department, as originally planned.
“We are considering focusing our urgent-care services on the site of the local hospital around the A&E department, which, in many cases, is the place that patients present with these problems.
“We know that the current way local urgent health care services in South Tyneside are organised is not helping patients understand where to go. Having streamlined urgent-care services with a single point of access that is clear to patients is one of our main priorities.
“We want to make sure the right care is delivered in the right way and that patients get the right response to the many different kinds of problems they face, as well as ensuring NHS resources are used in the best way.”
Consultation on the proposals runs until Friday, August 22, and will include three public meetings in June and July. More information is available at www.south-tynesideccg.nhs.uk/get-involved