LIKE many people, I was extremely concerned to hear that the CCG, the NHS body responsible for healthcare in South Tyneside, has proposed to close the Jarrow Walk-in Centre and relocate the services to South Shields.
I have written to Dr Matthew Walmsley, Chairman of the CCG, to identify my concerns.
Firstly, NHS figures show that 27,000 people used the walk-in centre last year, many of them attending because they could not get an appointment with their GP.
Secondly, closing the centre would create significant inconvenience to thousands of patients, many of whom are pensioners or have small children and would have to commute from Jarrow, Hebburn or Wardley to the South Shields site, at least one bus journey away from all the nearest Metro stations, something I find hard to justify.
It is not reasonable to expect someone with health concerns to take several bus journeys to receive medical attention.
It is also likely to lead to increased demand on the ambulance service to take patients who cannot easily travel to South Shields.
Lastly, a proposal to relocate to the site of South Tyneside District Hospital makes little sense when recent figures show that only 72.4 per cent of patients attending A&E are only seen within the four-hour target.
Adding an additional 27,000 patients will only make this worse. At best, the pressure on the already underperforming A&E in South Shields will increase, leading to longer waiting times.
I have urged Dr Walmsley to reconsider this decision and asked him to meet me to discuss my concerns, although the CCG (an unelected and unaccountable body) has already shown itself immune to the concerns raised by elected politicians about this decision.
Stephen Hepburn has also raised his concerns, which is commendable, but I cannot see how he will live up to his promise of saving the hospital when Labour does not intend to change the way that the NHS is run.
I am sure that I am not alone in thinking that far too many decisions are being made by unelected bodies like the CCG which can ride roughshod over the wishes of local people.
UKIP would replace unelected CCGs with elected clinical health boards which would be accountable to local people. If they do not provide the services that
people are entitled to expect, they can be removed from office at the next election.
That is democracy in action, and that is why you should vote UKIP in May.
UKIP PPC for the Jarrow Constituency.