A REGULAR visitor at South Tyneside District Hospital has raised concerns over a lack of parking at the site.
Jacqui Dunn, authorised pastoral assistant for St Peter’s Church, Jarrow, says she is often left driving round in circles in the hunt for a place to leave her car while she visits patients.
Now, with the future of the walk in centre based at Palmer’s Hospital in Jarrow hanging in the balance, she fears the issue is only going to get worse if it is closed.
The South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to relocate the centre to the proposed new urgent care hub on the site of South Tyneside District Hospital as part of a review into urgent care.
However, following a high profile backlash from residents on the decision, councillors have agreed to refer the decision to the Secretary of State.
Ms Dunn said: “I visit the hospital regularly and every time I have found it difficult to find a place to park.
“You end up driving around for ages, you can’t park in the nearby streets as the roads either have double yellow lines or permit only.
“If people are struggling now to find spaces to park their cars, what is it going to be like when the walk in centre closes in Jarrow and people have to come here?
“It’s not just visitors, what about those who have appointments – what happens if they can’t find anywhere to park? They will end up missing their appointments or turning up so late they might be told they can’t be seen.”
Steve Jamieson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s director of corporate services and estates, said: “We are very conscious of the difficulty people sometimes face in locating a parking space on the South Tyneside District Hospital site at peak times, usually during the visiting period in the afternoon.
“We have worked closely with NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group in planning the changes and we are confident that they will not lead to a significant increase in the number of visitors to the hospital site.
“We will continue to monitor traffic flow in the immediate weeks following the relocation to ascertain if there is a need to review the number of parking spaces available.”
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is an important change which will bring A&E and urgent care together, and help us run services more efficiently. The decision was based on clear evidence from around the country – both about clinically effective models of health care and the practical issues posed by the new arrangements.
“All the evidence shows that a single urgent care hub can speed up health care and allow A&E staff to concentrate on genuine emergencies.
“I understand people’s concern, but other areas have found that combining walk-in-centres simply does not result in all the people who use them attending the A&E department.
“For example, common illnesses like coughs, colds and upset stomachs can be treated with help from a GP or pharmacist, which helps to ease the pressure on other NHS services.”