NHS phasing out walk-in facilities that are not Urgent Treatment Centres
Campaigner Merril Hammer said, “We will be demanding a full public consultation". Photo by Julia Gregory.
Politicians are taking legal advice to see if they can block the proposed closure of a walk-in health centre.
The move comes after Hammersmith and Fulham CCG said it will have to close the Parsons Green walk-in centre to follow national policy from NHS England. Together with NHS Improvement it ruled that centres which do not meet the criteria to become an Urgent Treatment Centre should not offer walk-in services. Health bosses said they had been in talks with NHSE to keep the centre open beyond the December 31 deadline it had set. It asked to continue until March 2020 when its contract ends.
The revelation last month shocked health campaigners. Hammersmith and Fulham’s cabinet member for health and adult social care, Ben Coleman, said he would have liked to be told sooner as “we would have raised it with the minister at a national level”.
He said the council is also taking legal advice to see if there should be a public consultation.
“They need to keep it open,” he said. “This is a very used service.”
Health campaigner Jim Grealy said hospitals referred patients to the centre.
“I had a skin cancer operation on my head and I was told the stitching was complex and needed to be taken out by people who knew that sort of work. The GP surgery could not do it and they took my stitches out at the walk-in centre. I was referred there by Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.”
He added: “It takes the pressure off the hospitals.”
A CCG engagement document said that it had asked to be exempt from closure – but the request was turned down. The nurse-led centre is open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays and from 9am to 1pm at weekends.
It is planning to ask people for their views. Last year staff dealt with 24,959 cases – half of them Hammersmith and Fulham residents.
And according to the latest data there were 1,050 wounding cases between January and March this year. They accounted for just over a third of cases, with ear irrigations making up 11% of the cases.
Campaigners from Hammersmith and Fulham Save Our NHS wrote to the CCG to outline their concerns. In their letter they said it had high patient and Care Quality Commission ratings.
They added the centre “is much used by over-pressed GP services and hospitals locally to deal with minor injuries, removal of stitches etc. to relieve pressures on their own services”.
It added: “The opening hours provide services at times when other services are also not available, including Saturday and Sunday opening hours. To close the centre can only add to the pressure on other services including acute services which, according to the CCG, are already under extreme pressure.”
Campaigner Merril Hammer said: “We will be demanding a full public consultation, which we understand has happened for similar centres elsewhere in the country.”
She added: “It takes pressure off GPs and a lot of patients are saying they did not have to wait more than an hour. That’s a real benefit for patients.”
A CCG spokesman said: “Although the CCG had hoped to keep the current services unchanged, and we still have some further work to do, it is looking like this will not be possible.
“Hammersmith and Fulham CCG is looking at ways in which the current services can be re-provided. The CCG has already spoken to members of the local scrutiny committee and will continue to engage with residents and other stakeholders on how best to provide these services.
“Changes required at the Parsons Green Walk-In Centre are not part of the 2019/20 savings plans.”
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter
October 11, 2019