The Shadow health secretary has condemned the closure of walk-in centres in Bury.
Jonathan Ashworth, who grew up in the Lancashire town, called on healthcare bosses to reconsider the decision to close these vital community assets.
Ashworth considers the move to be short-sighted, and also warned that the plan will have the undesired consequence of piling further pressure on to Accident and Emergency departments.
And Ashworth is also sceptical that plans to use NHS 111 to triage patients towards GP appointments instead would work adequately.
The clinical commissioning group for Bury had decided last week to shut both Bury and Prestwich walk-in centres.
It was argued at the time that treating patients elsewhere will be more effective.
But the shadow health secretary rejects the legitimacy of this move.
“At a time when the NHS was going through a crisis – and we all know about the pressures on A&E – taking a decision to close a walk-in centre is so short sighted. One of the ways in which the last Labour government relieved the pressure on hospitals in winter was the establishment of GP-led NHS walk-in centres. It’s a popular facility. People are saying they don’t want it to close and I just hope that local health bosses will reconsider.”
The NHS Bury organisation, responsible for overseeing health services in the region, suggests that patients could ring the 111 service.
This would then direct them to a GP appointment at a new location, or to a hospital or appropriate pharmacy.
But Ashworth questioned the validity of this scheme, and also cast doubt on the popularity of the 111 service.
The change has yet to be implemented, with a statutory consultation still due to take place.
This will involve further dialogue between the clinical commissioning group and local council, with the latter continuing to oppose the move.
It is understood a statutory consultation on the change is expected in the next few weeks, but the details are still subject to wrangling between the CCG and the council, which opposes the overall move.
An NHS Bury spokesman outlined the preparation that has been undertaken in order to come to this decision.
“The CCG has carried out considerable scoping work in its review of the urgent care system in Bury. The centres form only a part of the wider urgent care landscape. Patients told us the current system is confusing and there is duplication and inefficiency.”
The spokesman continued, speaking of the advantages that the new approach will deliver.
“The new model will streamline services to make them more responsive to meet needs now and in the future. New services now exist that replicate services that were previously only available at the walk-in centres. Attendances are consistently dwindling and many attend for minor ailments that can be treated and supported by community pharmacists.”