CONCERN has been expressed that accident and emergency (A&E) services will be threatened by proposed 'walk-in' provision at a new health centre.
A GP-led health centre is planned for Cleadon Park estate, in South Shields, as part of a 3.4m investment in extra GP services in the borough.
Every primary care trust (PCT) in the country has been told by the Government it must provide a GP-led health centre, to open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.
These centres would also offer other services, such as x-rays and minor surgery, and be open for registered and non-registered patients on a 'walk-in' basis.
But at a meeting of East Shields Community Area Forum, members expressed fears that the new 'walk-in' service could threaten the very existence of the A&E department at South Tyneside District Hospital.
Coun Eileen Leask, Labour councillor for Horsley Hill, questioned the "duplication of services".
She said: "Personally, I am all for more GPs, but I am very concerned about the implications for the hospital. I feel this facility would be located too close to the hospital – just 150 metres away.
"It should be centred a long way from the hospital, where people don't have access to these services, in Hebburn or in Jarrow for example.
"If I was taken ill, I would get a taxi to the hospital, not go to the walk-in service at Cleadon Park. These are duplicated services.
"I am not against this service, but do resent that it would be located within walking distance of the hospital."
Val Elsy, of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, also expressed concern over how patients would decide which unit to visit.
She said: "How does a patient know what is or isn't a minor injury? I don't want to knock 3.4m, but this gift horse has to be examined carefully to ensure it doesn't turn out to be a Trojan horse."
But a spokeswoman for South Tyneside PCT denied the new unit was a threat to A&E.
She said: "It will not threaten the viability of A&E. It is not about one service threatening another.
"It's about working alongside each other in a complementary
"Sunderland has a walk-in centre, and Sunderland Royal Hospital is still operating A&E services."
Palmer Community Hospital, in Jarrow, was suggested at the meeting as an alternative location for the 'walk-in' unit.