Today marks a new era for emergency healthcare in South Tyneside.
The Jarrow Walk-in Centre officially closed its doors for good at 8pm yesterday with services being transferred over to a new Urgent Care Hub, based at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields, from today.
Despite an 18-month protest by campaigners over the closure, which was made by the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to make savings of up to £2m annually, the move still went ahead.
However, Gemma Taylor, Public Service Alliance co-ordinator – who is acting on behalf of the campaigners, has vowed that their fight is not over.
She said: “The closure may have happened but our fight is not yet over, we will be at every meeting, we will be recording every story of someone who has suffered.
“And still we urge those responsible to wake up and see how important Jarrow Walk-in Centre is before it is too late. We will be carrying on with our fight.”
The campaigners are concerned that the six recommendations the CCG had to meet following its decision to relocate the walk-in centre, have not been achieved.
These include the amount of adequate parking spaces on the South Shields site, travel links and access to GPs.
On Tuesday a 3,204 signature petition was handed over to the office of Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England.
Yesterday was also the last day of employment for up to 10 medical receptionists and admin staff, based at the Jarrow Walk-in Centre who lost their jobs through the relocation.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of the CCG, said: “Local doctors and nurses made the decision to move the service to the hospital site as this is the best way to provide a quality service for local people.
“This approach has been used in other areas and it has improved patient care as well as reducing the pressure on busy A&E services.
“Walk-in centres are not the only option and I would encourage people to consider which service is best for their needs, as this may be a GP, NHS 111 or a trained local pharmacist.”
Doctor’s advice: Take time to make a right choice
Health leaders have called on South Tyneside residents to play their part in safeguarding the NHS locally after changes to urgent care services.
With the existing walk-in centre at Jarrow relocating to form part of a new urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital today, doctors are reminding patients how to access the right service for their needs.
“When one of your family is unwell, the only thing on your mind is how to get the care they need, as quickly as possible, but it’s worth stopping to think for a moment, to make sure you choose the right service,” says Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of the CCG. “Your local NHS has a range of services to meet all your family’s healthcare needs – and you can get the right treatment first time, if you choose the right service.
“While we do understand people’s concerns about these changes, it’s important to remember that walk-in centres are not the only option.
“Your GP should be the first port of call for most healthcare needs, and local practices have taken a number of steps to make it easier to get an appointment.
“Local pharmacists are also highly trained and can give professional advice on a wide range of minor ailments from aches and pains and allergies to colds, head lice and skin problems.
“We have launched Think Pharmacy First, which provides free consultations for everyone – and if you don’t pay for your prescriptions, you may be able to get free over the counter medicines through this scheme. If you urgently need medical help and your practice is closed, you can call NHS 111, who can signpost you to the right service. For emergencies, major accidents or life-threatening situations, 999 is the number to call.
“The new urgent care hub is located alongside A&E, which means that patients who do not need emergency treatment can still see a medical professional without adding to the pressure on A&E staff.”