JARROW MP Stephen Hepburn has signed on the dotted line as opposition grows to the closure of a town medical facility.
Plans have been revealed to shut the Jarrow Walk-in Centre at Palmer Community Hospital.
That’s despite more than 27,000 people accessing the unit over the last year – a rise from 12,000 a year when it opened in 2010.
Its closure is opposed by South Tyneside Public Services Alliance which launched a protest petition yesterday.
Mr Hepburn was among the 144 people in just one hour to sign the document as part of a consultation process, which continues with a public meeting next Tuesday from 2pm at Bede’s World in Jarrow.
The Jarrow MP said: “I strongly oppose plans to close the Jarrow Walk-in Centre, as it is a most valuable service used by local people.
“I will be meeting with chief officers from South Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to discuss my concerns as it is vitally important that this integral facility is retained in Jarrow.”
Julie Armstrong, area organiser with Unison, said: “We collected 144 signatures in an hour. People are passionate about keeping the Walk-in Centre in Jarrow.
“Very few seemed to know about the proposals at all, but didn’t hesitate to sign our petition when they knew.
“Staff also have copies of the petition and we are to have further signing sessions. Most of the people we spoke to were surprised and disconcerted at the proposal. They told us the centre was very useful to them, that they can’t get GP appointments, particularly at the weekends.
“They also feel it is very convenient to reach because of its location close to the bus station and the Metro.
“The CCG plan to close this facility because they say it has not achieved its original aim of taking the burden off A&E at the district hospital, but in reality the truth is it is just a cost-cutting exercise.”
The 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.
But commissioning group chief officer Dr David Hambleton says the service has not taken any pressure off the A&E department.
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