Health Secretary calls for review over axed walk-in centre

Palmers Community Hospital, Jarrow
Palmers Community Hospital, Jarrow

THE Secretary of State for Health has asked for a review to be carried out into the closure of the Jarrow walk-in centre.

Jeremy Hunt MP has referred the impending closure of Jarrow Walk-in Centre to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) – which is an independent expert on NHS change.

SENT LETTER: Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

SENT LETTER: Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt.

In November the NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced plans to relocate the centre, which is used by 27,000 people annually, inside a new urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital, in South Shields, to save £2m annually.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, who is strongly against the decision, is delighted the Tory health secretary is now looking into the matter.

Mr Hepburn said: “I’ve received confirmation from the Tory Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that he’s referred our case for the centre to be saved to what’s called the IRP for it to review the plans.

“So why are out-of-touch local NHS bosses still not listening? Why, here in South Tyneside, are they pressing ahead with the destruction of the Jarrow centre?

“My only concern is that the panel will be receiving their evidence from the very people who are trying to have it closed.

“But I feel this is a positive step in the right direction.”

The IRP carries out an initial assessment of a referral and assesses its suitability for full review. The advice is then submitted to Mr Hunt before he decides on what decision to take.

The panel is made up of experienced clinicians, managers and lay members who have wide-ranging expertise in clinical healthcare, NHS management, involving the public and patients, and handling and delivering successful changes to the NHS. A spokeswoman for the IRP said: “We can confirm that the health secretary has referred the case to the IRP. We will be carrying out an initial assessment which will take several weeks.

“We then provide Mr Hunt with our advice and he will then make his decisions.”

Earlier this month Mr Hepburn told health bosses to ‘hold their horses’ as he’d been assured by Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham that there will be a U-turn on the closure should Labour regain power in May’s general election.

Mr Hepburn said: “I still stand by my words. They need to hold off before they close the centre or start dismantling it. I have been assured by Mr Burnham that it was to stay open, not just for a while, but forever, providing it’s still in an operational condition like it is now, and providing Labour regain power.”

Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chair of the CCG, said: “Our governing body agreed the proposal to create an urgent care hub for South Tyneside after detailed consideration of the best clinical evidence and consideration of the feedback we received during our public consultation.

“As doctors and nurses, our priority is to arrange services in a way that help us provide the very best clinical care. We believe that a new urgent care hub will help us do that.

“We were more than happy to provide information to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel when approached several weeks ago, as throughout this process we have been open and transparent. In fact, the information we have collated was already available to the public on our website.

“We look forward to hearing from the Secretary of State in due course.”