Patient champion vows to keep ‘close eye’ on impact of walk-in centre closure

editorial image

The new chairwoman of a patient champion group has vowed to keep a ‘close eye’ on the impact of a major health services overhaul in South Tyneside.

The Jarrow Walk-in Centre closed its doors for the final time last week – despite protesters leading a 18-month campaign against the controversial plan – with services being moved to a new Urgent Care Hub at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields.

We will be keeping a close eye on the impact on the people of Jarrow and Hebburn of the relocation of Jarrow Walk-in Centre services

Sue Taylor

South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group said it pressed ahead with the move in a bid to make £2million of savings and free up A & E staff to deal with more urgent cases.

But residents have expressed fears over the closure to watchdog Healthwatch South Tyneside (HST).

Concerns have been raised over elderly patients being forced to make longer journeys to access health services, as well as the availability of parking at the hospital-based hub and whether there will be enough GPS to meet a surge in demand.

Sue Taylor, who has been appointed as the new chairwoman of HST, says the watchdog will be focused on helping to meet the ‘challenges’ healthcare changes will have on residents.

Mrs Taylor, who is chief executive of Gateshead and South Tyneside Sight Service, said: “We have a board with considerable expertise and we are all focused on the changes in the integrated care model, which will pose challenges to patients in the borough.

“We will be keeping a close eye on the impact on the people of Jarrow and Hebburn of the relocation of Jarrow Walk-in Centre services to the new urgent care acute hub.”

Another change to the borough’s health landscape will see a £9m integrated care services hub opening in hospital grounds early next year.

The integrated care services hub will aim to improve the wellbeing of the borough’s ageing population, particularly those with dementia, offering a range of support to older people and their carers. It has been designed to cope with a projected 50 per cent increase in dementia across all ages by 2030 and a 138 per cent increase in people over 90.

The hub will have 80 beds, with about 30 older people living on the site and others accessing beds on a respite basis or before going back to live at home after a hospital stay.

Mrs Taylor, a former bank manager who has worked in the voluntary sector for 25 years, added: “We are particularly keen to engage with younger people, those with mental health problems and patients from an ethnic minority background.

“Our new website includes a feedback facility, where people can tell us about their experiences with new and existing health and social care services, and also includes lots of signposting information. Anyone unsure about the changes to urgent care services and care for older people can also call us to ask for advice.”

As well as appointing a new chairwoman, the Healthwatch board has taken on five new board members.

The new Healthwatch South Tyneside website can be found at www.healthwatchsouthtyneside.co.uk