Why closing the Jarrow walk-in centre was the best decision

Palmers Community Hospital, Jarrow
Palmers Community Hospital, Jarrow

LAST month the doctors and nurses who lead South Tyneside’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) agreed some changes to urgent care services.

These included relocating Jarrow walk-in centre to a new ‘one-stop shop’ urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital.

I’d like to reassure people that this decision was made on clinical grounds, based on national evidence around the most clinically effective models of care, which also help to ensure the delivery of services within scarce NHS resources.

 As a local GP I understand that this will cause some concerns, though it’s unfortunate that some opponents of the changes have chosen to engage in what could only be deemed to be personal attacks.

As a GP-led group, we very much recognise the importance of high quality, and we are firmly committed to helping people get the right treatment.

The evidence shows that many people are using NHS services in ways that were not expected. Many use walk-in centres for issues that could be resolved by their GP or local pharmacy, or attend A&E for minor ailments.

This puts a strain on services, increases waiting times and often means being referred from one service to another.

A single hub means an integrated service, so A & E staff can spend their time on genuine emergencies.

This is absolutely not about making cuts. It’s about safeguarding busy services to ensure we have a well-functioning NHS for everyone.

Some are concerned that the move will mean thousands of people descending on the District Hospital, but the evidence does not support this.

There were 27,000 attendances at the walk-in centre last year, a figure which includes the same people re-attending on multiple occasions. Most involved minor ailments which could be treated with advice from a pharmacist.

Many attend walk-in centres because they find it difficult to see a GP, so we are taking steps to make that easier, as well as encouraging people to discuss minor ailments with their local pharmacist, all of whom have consultation facilities on site.

We have listened to the views of over 2,000 people through meetings, focus groups and surveys. The council endorsed our approach as part of our five-year strategic plan at June’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

The consultation had a real influence on our thinking, and we are working to tackle issues around transport, access to GPs and extending the pharmacist advice service before the changes take place.

We do understand that this kind of change will cause debate, but I would ask our critics to remember that the decision was made on clinical grounds, by doctors, nurses and managers who are committed to Safeguarding NHS services for the future for residents across the whole borough.

Dr Matthew Walmsley

Chairman of South Tyneside CCG.