Rally calls for Jarrow walk-in centre to be saved

HUNDREDS of campaigners turned out to back an appeal to rethink plans to close Jarrow’s Walk-in Centre.

A rally held in the shadow of the town hall attracted a crowd of about 300 as people showed their support for the service, which is based at Palmer Community Hospital.

Labour has pledged it will remain open if the party gets back into power in the general election on Thursday, May 7.

The original decision to close it, made by the borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). was referred by South Tyneside Council to the Secretary of State for Health.

But the Government decided it was not suitable for a full review and referred it back to the CCG, with its future now in the hands of the CCG, South Tyneside Council and NHS England.

The CCG has said it has based its proposal on hard evidence, stating if South Tyneside’s centre and A&E are on the same site, patients will be guided to the best service for their needs, freeing up A&E to concentrate on emergencies.

Crowds at the NHS rally held in Jarrow today.

Crowds at the NHS rally held in Jarrow today.

But residents say they value the quality of service and find it easy to reach, while they have found the centre in South Shields is often very busy and difficult to travel to.

Among the speakers was Joan Lewis, 67, from Jarrow, who called for the town to get a minor injuries unit alongside the late Theresa Walsh in 1987.

Within nine weeks, they had gathered 10,000 signatures, persuading health authority bosses to set up a service.

She said: “Closing this will make all the difference, for the simple reason GPs are not available on Saturdays and Sundays or outside 8am to 8pm.

The centre is well used, with 27,000 people using it. It is very much needed.

Walk in centre campaigner Joan Lewis

“The centre is well used, with 27,000 a year people using it. It is very much needed.”

A statement was read out from Andy Burnham, shadow secretary for health, who reiterated his pledge made in the House of Commons in January - that if MP Stephen Hepburn and the community keep their campaign running, he will keep the complex open should a Labour government be elected.

Mr Burnham said: “The centre is a key part of Labour’s NHS policies to enable is to handle the ever-growing demands on our health service.

“With the crisis we have seen in the NHS waiting times and A&E, I believe it is important to keep these important health facilities, which are greatly valued by the local community.”

The rally was backed by the Northern Public Services Alliance, 999 Call for the NHS, the Northern TUC, The People’s Assembly and the National Pensioners’ Convention.

The event was chaired by Merv Butler of South Tyneside’s branch of the Public Service Alliance, with speakers including Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the TUC, Mr Hepburn, Linda Hobson, Unison’s chairman for regional health, Joanne Land of 999 Call for NHS, Marion Langley, Unison branch secretary, Jan Shortt of the National Pensioners’ Convention, Roz Slater, a service user and campaigner, and Jude Kirton-Darling, Labour MEP for the region.