COUNCILLORS are to appeal to the Government over the controversial closure of a South Tyneside health centre.
They are set to write to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, urging him to stop the closure of Jarrow Walk-in Centre, located at Palmer Community Hospital.
The unanimous decision was made at a South Tyneside Council overview and scrutiny co-ordinating call-in committee meeting on Wednesday night.
South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is set to relocate the centre to a proposed new urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital, in Harton Lane, South Shields, after a public consultation into proposals ended.
The move comes despite more than 27,000 people using the unit over the last year – an increase from 12,000 a year when it opened in 2010.
Now councillors have decided to write to the Westminster, saying the decision should be reviewed.
Coun John McCabe, political officer for Jarrow Constituency Labour Party, said: “The committee has decided to write to the Health Secretary because this is detrimental to the health of the community. We will be preparing a dossier with all of the evidence from all of the meetings we’ve had.
“It was a unanimous decision and even Coun Jeff Milburn and the opposition has been on our side the whole time.
“This is a very important issue because the health and wellbeing of the whole borough is at stake.”
He added: “I don’t think the timing is right. I don’t think they can shut one service down and start another up at the same time.
“It’s also going to displace a lot of people. If you’re living in poverty, it’s going to be hard to get public transport to South Shields, especially late at night.
“This is the fundamental point. If you’re a logical person, why would you take the walk-in centre away from a place that is central to the borough, right next to the Metro and the bus station where almost every bus in South Tyneside goes, and put it somewhere where it doesn’t have those transport links?”
Coun McCabe also drew comparisons between the arrangements in South Tyneside and Sunderland.
He said: “Sunderland have just opened a new centre in Houghton-le-Spring and they’ve already got ones in Bunny Hill and Washington.
“Their CCG is advertising and saying, ‘come to our centres rather than going to A&E’. Why can they have that and we can’t?”
Committee chairman, Coun Rob Dix, said: “While we agree that the development of the urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital is a necessary and welcome development, members unanimously agreed that this should not be at the expense of the Jarrow Walk-in Centre until the problems around the access to GP services in Jarrow and Hebburn and South Tyneside as a whole are addressed.”
An earlier meeting of the full council previously passed a motion calling for the Walk-In Centre to be retained, while more than 1,200 people also signed a protest petition against the move.
Councillors will refer the matter to the Secretary of State next week. It is expected that he will make a decision within the next three months.
CCG bosses put forward plans for an urgent care hub as part of a plan to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to the hospital’s A&E department, which would save £2m a year.
According to CCG figures, 56,508 patients were seen and treated at South Tyneside General Hospital A&E in 2012/13 at a cost of £5.3m.
Of those, 33,379 – 60 per cent – didn’t require treatment.