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Three walk-in centres will close following NHS Sunderland CCG’s decision to offer extended access appointments.
NHS Sunderland CCG decided last week that it will have only one urgent treatment centre located at Pallion Health Centre and offer extended access services from five GP practices.
This means that from April 2019, patients will be able to access urgent care by calling NHS 111 or their GP practice.
The walk-in centres at Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre, Houghton Primary Care Centre and Washington Primary Care Centre will be replaced with better access to GP appointments, the CCG said.
Commissioners agreed that patients will still be able to access minor injury services via appointments from Houghton Primary Care Centre and Washington Primary Care Centre.
The CCG expects to have over 45,000 GP appointments per year – including an additional 14,000 from April 2019 – through its extended access service.
Extra appointments ‘not based on any concrete evidence’
The decision was taken after a petition launched by the local branch of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) collected more than 14,000 signatures of people opposing the plans.
KONP was in particular challenging the CCG’s assertion that reshaping urgent care services would provide 42,000 additional GP appointments per year, as they said it was ‘not based on any concrete evidence and are unbelievable’.
NHS Sunderland CCG said that they took the petition into consideration together with the 2,219 responses they collected during a 16-week public consultation period.
Other key themes that emerged from the consultation included concerns to travel and transport to Pallion Health Centre and the capacity and ability of GP practices to support the plans, given a lack of GPs that could make it harder to deliver on the CCG’s promise of 42,000 extra appointments a year.
However, the CCG said that an ‘improved Recovery at Home service’ – a rapid response service to help people recover at home – will ‘provide some visits on behalf of practices’, which ‘will increase GP capacity as it will free up GPs to provide additional appointments to patients’.
‘The right decision’
NHS Sunderland CCG chair Dr Ian Pattison said: ‘We have been very clear from the start that the current services cannot continue the way they are. Our role in the NHS is to ensure that we are providing the best possible healthcare with the resources that we have.
‘In making our decision we have taken into consideration the feedback from members of the public.
‘By reviewing all the evidence that has been collected, we firmly believe that we have made the right decision for the future of urgent care services for the people of Sunderland.’