A concerned councillor says a controversial overhaul of health services in the borough is facing a winter ‘acid test’.
Jarrow Walk-in Centre close its doors for the final time last Thursday – with services being switched to a new urgent care hub at South Tyneside Hospital.
I am still fearful that residents from far-flung parts of the borough, in Hebburn and Jarrow, will not be able to get to the hub.John McCabe
Health chiefs say the newly-opened hub is “running smoothly” and have vowed to monitor its progress closely.
Protesters who staged an 18-month campaign against the closure expressed fears over issues such as GP access, parking costs and transport links to the hospital.
John McCabe, ward councillor for Hebburn south, says it is still too early to judge if the move will be a success but fears many cash-strapped residents will not be able to fork out for transport to South Shields.
The CCG said it pressed ahead with the opening of the hub in order to make £2million worth of savings a year and cut down on unnecessary visits to A&E which would save £2million a year.
Coun McCabe said: “It is too early to make a judgement on the changes.
“The acid test will be in the winter months to come. I am still fearful that residents from far-flung parts of the borough, in Hebburn and Jarrow, will not be able to get to the hub.
“My ward is one of the most deprived in the country. A taxi from Hebburn to the hospital could be £12. Will they be able to pay that when they can’t afford to pay their rent?
“There will be a review of the move in six months’ time, and the picture will be clearer by then.”
A spokesman for South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust said: “The new hub is running smoothly and linking well with A&E to ensure that patients are guided to the best service for their needs.
“As with any new service, we will continue to monitor its development closely to ensure that it meets patient needs.”
Dr Matthew Walmsley, a local GP and chairman of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Local doctors and nurses have always been clear that a single urgent care hub is the best way to provide a quality service for the whole borough, as well as reducing pressure on A&E.
“It’s worth remembering that walk-in centres are not the only option for patients, and it’s worth stopping to consider what is the best service for your needs.”