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Jobs bombshell as walk-in centre staff axed at one week’s notice

Save Jarrow Walk In Centre supporters during a bed-push protest
Save Jarrow Walk In Centre supporters during a bed-push protest

Health chiefs are to axe 10 jobs ahead of a controversial closure of a health centre in South Tyneside next week.

Medical receptionists and administration staff at Jarrow Walk-In Centre have been told they will no longer have jobs after September 29 when the service is moved to South Tyneside District Hospital.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) made the decision to close the centre so it could be relocated to an urgent care hub at the hospital in Harton Lane South Shields.

The move is set to make savings of up to £2million annually and the workers believed they too would be relocated.

But stunned staff, who are employed by Northern Doctors Urgent Care, have been given a week’s notice of unemployment.

Coun John McCabe, Labour representative for Hebburn south, says he is stunned by the news.

Unison petition outside Palmer Hospital.'Roger Nettleship branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside Health Branch

Unison petition outside Palmer Hospital.'Roger Nettleship branch secretary of Unison South Tyneside Health Branch

He said: “I am completely disgusted by this development. Shocked is an understatement

“Time and time again we’ve been told this is simply a relocation of Jarrow Walk-in Centre and not a closure. Why aren’t the staff being relocated?

“Nobody ever thought they’d be losing their jobs. If the walk-in centre is just being relocated, then it’s surely going to need these staff to operate it”

He added: “To be given a week’s notice like this, after all their dedication over the years is terrible. It’s like we’ve gone back to the pre-Victorian times.

“These people have families to support and deserve better. These health bosses should be ashamed of themselves.”

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn says he met with Dr David Hambleton, the chief officer for the CCG, on Tuesday and there was no mention of the job losses.

He said: “It was a very cold meeting and he was adamant that the closure was going ahead. Basically, our pleas to keep it open were falling on deaf ears.

“But there was no mention of any jobs being shed. I am shocked and saddened to learn of this

Roger Nettleship, the chairman of the Save the Jarrow Walk-In Centre Group, said: “The campaign group is outraged by this.

“All along we have heard the centre is being relocated to South Shields, but now it seems all of the staff aren’t being relocated along with it.

“Our fight to safeguard urgent care facilities in South Tyneside continues.”

John Harrison, chief executive at Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC), said: “It has been a pleasure to serve residents in Jarrow through the walk-in-centre. We appreciate the fantastic job that the staff have done and how much their hard work is valued in the local community.

“NDUC was not involved in the decision to close the walk-in-centre, however we have made every effort to redeploy staff to other centres and we will continue to do so.”

A spokesman from the CCG said: “This is a matter for Northern Doctors Urgent Care.”

How health bosses previously addressed the six key concerns in the consultation report over the relocation:

1. A need to improve GP access.

Answer: Assurance given that walk-in patients will have needs met “more effectively” at urgent care hub.

2. Need to educate public about when and how to access health services.

Answer: ‘Think Pharmacy First’ campaign launched to encourage a greater use of pharmacies for self-care.

3. Promotion of minor ailment service operating in community pharmacies.

Answer: NHS England noted that South Tyneside was “ahead of the game” on social marketing and public health promotion.

4. Need to travel quickly and cost-effectively to district hospital.

Answer: Centralising provision at hospital site will make service “more accessible” to majority of people in South Tyneside.

5. Minimising cost of car parking at district hospital.

Answer: Parking charges are in line with cost at hospitals elsewhere in region.

6. Understanding why young people attend the walk-in centre.

Answer: The CCG was gathering evidence on this via a social media study.

Controversy has surrounded Jarrow Walk-in Centre since its closure was announced last year.

South Tyneside CCG launched a 12-week public consultation over the proposals on May 28, 2014

Health chiefs said they were trying to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to A&E which would save £2m a year.

According to CCG figures, 56,508 patients were seen and treated at South Tyneside District Hospital A&E in 2012/13 at a cost of £5.3m.

Of those, 33,379 – 60 per cent – didn’t require treatment.

The CCG decided in November to press ahead with the plan to replace the centre but this sparked anger from the local community, who urged the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to carry out a review.

However, the IRP ruled the closure was not suitable for a full review by the Health Secretary.

It said it was satisfied that, if the six recommendations outlined by the CCG’s consultation are put in place within a suitable timescale, then all parties involved should be “confident that local primary health services capacity in Jarrow and Hebburn is sufficient to mitigate for the change”.

These recommendations included parking provisions and travel links and GP access.

Its report said: “The panel considers each referral on its merits and concludes that this referral is not suitable for a full review because further local action by the NHS with the council can address the issues raised.”