MP’s double fight over walk-in centre and dying patient unit closures

Primrose Hill Community Hospital, Jarrow
Primrose Hill Community Hospital, Jarrow

JARROW MP Stephen Hepburn has intervened over the transfer of terminally-ill patients from a specialist unit in the town.

Six people with life-limiting conditions have been moved from Jarrow’s Primrose Hill Hospital, a palliative care facility, to ward 22 at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn

Health bosses say they intend to keep the Jarrow unit closed for an estimated three to four months while its 15 staff help cope with an increase in emergency admissions at the Harton Lane site.

It’s a decision which has concerned Mr Hepburn, who has now written to a borough health boss to seek clarification.

Meanwhile, the MP made a last bid in Parliament this week to persuade deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to intervene over another controversial proposal – the closure of Jarrow Walk-in Centre and the transfer of its services to the borough’s district hospital.

Mr Hepburn said: “The transfer of patients from Primrose Hill Hospital understandably raises concerns about the future of our NHS services in Jarrow.

“I have written to Lorraine Lambert, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, to ask her for clarification relating to this matter.”

During his Parliamentary intervention over the town’s walk-in centre this week, Mr Hepburn urged Mr Clegg to step in “at the eleventh hour”.

Speaking in Parliament he said: “I have made a plea to the Prime Minister, and I have made a plea to the Secretary of State for Health. Can the Deputy Prime Minister stop this?

“Some 27,000 people are going to be dumped on overloaded local GPs and Accident and Emergency.

“It is deliberate sabotage of the NHS, to get the private sector involved through the backdoor. I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to help.”

Speaking after the debate, Mr Hepburn added: “Mr Clegg said he was willing to look into this while disputing my analysis – much as you would expect.

“But people in Jarrow are deeply unhappy about this closure and there is a very reasonable case for deferring the decision until after the election. Part of my job is to make the case for this whenever I can.”

Mr Hepburn has pledged the walk-in centre would be saved – if Labour win the next election.

And he has called 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.

But health bosses have defended both transfer decisions.

Steve Williamson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer, says health staff are under intense pressure because of a sharp rise in emergency admissions at the borough’s district hospital.

He has pledged that as soon as those “unprecedented pressures” had eased, Primrose Hill would reopen.

Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said that 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.”

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