JARROW MP Stephen Hepburn has pledged that a doomed health centre in South Tyneside will be saved if Labour win the next election.
Mr Hepburn is calling on health bosses to ‘hold their horses’ after he says he has had “categorical assurance” from Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham that there will be a U-turn on the decision to relocate Jarrow Walk-in Centre to a new urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields.
Mr Hepburn is confident that the move, which was announced in November by the South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to save £2m annually, will be halted should Labour regain power after a meeting with Mr Burnham.
He said: “I am telling local health bosses to hold their horses on closing the walk-in centre in Jarrow and to save their money.
“I have had a meeting with Andy Burnham in Parliament and he assures me that if Labour wins the election then the walk-in centre will be saved.”
He added: “He, like countless others, is astounded by the decision to move it in the first instance, and he agrees with the concerns raised by residents.”
Health chiefs say they are trying to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to A&E by creating the new hub.
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.
But the decision to move the walk-in centre, which sees 27,000 patients annually, has caused outrage among residents who are concerned about how those without cars would access the hub.
However, health bosses say that the walk-in centre isn’t closing, but is simply “relocating” so there’s nothing to save.
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of the CCG, said: “The Jarrow walk-in centre is not closing.
“It will relocate to form part of a single urgent care hub based at South Tyneside District Hospital.
“With the walk-in centre on the same site as A&E, patients will come through a single front door and be guided to the best service for their needs.
“That will free up A&E staff to concentrate on the most urgent cases.
“Local doctors and nurses have studied the evidence in detail, and it is clear that this will ease some of the pressure on A&E, making it possible to run both services more efficiently.
“We have not had any contact from Mr Burnham, but would be happy to respond to any concerns he may have.”
n Voice of South Tyneside ... Page 6
n MP Stephen Hepburn’s column ... Page 12