A CAMPAIGN to save Worcester’s walk-in health centre failed yesterday after a final decision was taken to close the facility next month (August).
The South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) made the decision at a meeting today (Thursday), and said it was based on the fact that the Farrier Street practice had become so busy with appointments that it was difficult for patients to just ‘walk in’.
Opposition to the plan had been strong, with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham MP among those against the closure.
And Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate and city councillor Joy Squires, who has protested against the closure of the centre, said the decision would lead to more people attending A&E at Worcestershire Royal Hospital, where there are plans to provide a new Urgent Care Centre to replace the service.
She said: “It (the decision) was a disappointment but not a surprise. The walk-in centre did not feature as part of it’s future plan and I have disputed the case for closing it. I feel it is a popular service that is well used and it is perverse to close a service that has done so well.
“This is a facility used by thousands of Worcester residents who do not see existing GP services as satisfactory and meeting their needs and there is a need for much better communication with patients about the different services that exist and should be using once Worcester walk-in centre closes.”
When the decision was reached, NHS England reassured users that the site will continue to run as a normal GP practice for the people who are registered there and for those who register in the future, but when it is time to renew the contract for the walk-in centre in August, it will be allowed to lapse.
“I think they will get many more people attending A&E as a result of the closure and there will be a period of about 12 to 18 months where people who used the walk-in centre will get poorer services than they got before,” Cllr Squires added.
Anthony Kelly, chairman of the NHS South Worcester CCG, said the closure was not the result of a funding gap but a decision which was taken to use the money for a more worthwhile service.
He said: “This is not a cost-cutting exercise. The funding for the walk-in service is going to be reinvested back into local health services.
“We believe that developments like the Urgent Care Centre in Worcester and greater role for Minor Injury Units will be a much more effective use of NHS resources and will help with some of the challenges we currently face such as reducing the pressure on our busy A&E department in Worcester.”
The decision on the future of the Walk-In Centre at Farrier House was made following an engagement exercise which took place earlier this year, which sought feedback on the plans from patients who used the service as well as the wider public.
A campaign will take place during the next few months to communicate the changes to patients and to help them understand the best urgent care option available to them.