A SEE-SAW battle over the future of an under-threat South Tyneside medical centre is set to go down to the wire, as a rally in support of its retention is staged this weekend.
At the gathering outside Jarrow Town Hall on Saturday, a statement will be read from Labour’s shadow secretary for health, Andy Burnham.
It will reiterate a pledge he made in Parliament that Jarrow Walk-In Centre, based at Palmer Community Hospital, will “stay open for good” – if Labour is elected to power on Thursday, May 7.
The original decision to close it was referred by South Tyneside Council to the Secretary of State for Health.
However, the Government decided it was not suitable for a full review and referred it back to the borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which made the proposal in the first place.
Now, the future of the complex lies between the CCG, South Tyneside Council and NHS England.
Ahead of this weekend’s rally, Matthew Walmsley, a South Tyneside GP and chairman of the CCG, issued a staunch defence of the closure move, saying it was based on “hard evidence”.
He has also pledged to meet Mr Burnham to address his concerns.
He said: “We understand people’s concern, but it’s important to be clear that our plans are based on hard evidence about the most clinically effective ways to provide health care.
“With the walk-in centre and A&E on the same site, patients will be guided to the best service for their needs, which will free up A&E staff to concentrate on genuine emergencies.
“We have been clear from the start that concerns around access to GPs, transport and raising awareness of advice available from places such as local pharmacists, must be tackled before the move takes place in the autumn.
“So, for example, we have already commissioned a detailed independent piece of work to get the clearest possible picture about accessing GPs locally.”
In his statement, Mr Burnham said: “I reiterate my pledge to your local MP Stephen Hepburn, that if he and his community can keep the campaign going and keep the Jarrow NHS Walk-In Centre open, and if I am Secretary of State in May, it will stay open for good.”