FURIOUS community leaders say that the closure of a walk-in clinic in Wirral will put elderly people at risk and could lead to increased waiting times at the Countess of Chester.
Councillors described the decision to close the Eastham Clinic on Eastham Rake and move staff to Arrowe Park Hospital's A&E deparment as a “bombshell”.
In a letter to Eastham Liberal Democrat councillors Phil Gilchrist, Dave Mitchell and Chris Carubia, the NHS Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced that the walk-in facility would close on September 6.
Cllr Mitchell said: “There was no communication to anyone prior to the bombshell.
"We, as local councillors, have fought for this service for many years, when we eventually received it.
"It was a great asset to the south end of the borough, drawing in users from even as far as North Wales and Cheshire, due to its accessibility, and it was always the first to close when shortage of staff occurred.
"Given the proposed changes to bus routes here, it will take over two and a half hours to reach Arrowe Park.
"I do not believe any of the following where taken into account; accessibility, distance and absolutely no contact or engagement with local residents, as to the closure.
"Why does the northern end of Wirral have the ability to have three centres, but none for the south?"
The CCG's letter stated: "Urgent and emergency care in the NHS is a national priority and in March NHS England signalled a national commitment to introduce front door streaming services in all accident and emergency departments to help deal with increasing demand and the pressure this creates on clinical services.”
“A new ‘front door clinical streaming’ service will be in place at the Emergency Department at Arrowe Park Hospital from 4th September 2017. In order to make this happen we have decided to increase the number of clinical staff working at the Arrowe Park Walk in Centre by requesting that Wirral Community NHS Foundation Trust reallocate staff from the current Walk in Centre at the Eastham Clinic. This means that the Walk in Centre service at the Eastham Clinic will no longer be available. Walk in Centre services will continue to be provided at Victoria Central Health Centre and the Walk in Centre on the Arrowe Park Hospital site. Eastham Clinic will continue to provide a wide range of other clinical services including blood testing and the dressings clinic. I want to assure you that the CCG is committed to ensuring that the clinic remains an essential part of the local community. “
Eastham councillor Phil Gilchrist added: "Given this short notice, I wish to formally object to the reduction in service at this end of Wirral.
"We worked to secure this service some years ago. My ward colleagues recently obtained usage figures which show usage from both this end of Wirral and Cheshire.
"Local people, and from further afield, attend services at Eastham because they understand the situation at Arrowe Park Hospital, may not wish to travel there, and are uncertain if local GPS are able to offer an appointment."
Cllr Chris Carubia said: "All summer there have been social media announcements to try not to attend A&E and to go to the walk in Centres instead.
"Between the start of December last year and the end of July 9,564 people attended this centre. 1,411 'walked in' in July alone – a record month compared to earlier months.
"September will see us also losing several bus routes making it even more difficult to get to Arrowpark and even our local GP surgeries will not be supplied by public transport.
"Yet another service closed here, it does seem that Wirral South really is this peninsula's poor relation."
Ellesmere Port and Neston MP and Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders slammed the decision, saying many residents would be unable to get to Arrowe Park or the Countess of Chester hospitals.
He said: “This decision has to be one of the worst, most ill thought out decisions that I have ever come across and it is being forced on our community without any warning or discussion. Whilst the service is primarily for Wirral residents it is also bad news for my constituents, many of whom have come to rely on this centre as they are unable to get to Arrowe Park or the Countess of Chester.
“Patients have a right to be consulted on major changes to their services, so it is appalling that this decision is being made at such short notice and apparently without any consultation.
“In the short-term, I am concerned that people with medical problems will still be turning up at this centre after it closes next week, as a few days’ notice is simply not sufficient for the message to reach everyone. I am urging the CCG to put a hold on this hasty decision until they have properly engaged with people in this area.
“Moving forward, I can foresee a serious knock on to the A & E waiting times at the Countess which are well below the national targets and also our already over-stretched GP service.Closing the walk in centre is the equivalent of rearranging the deck chairs in the Titanic, as it will simply push patients and the pressure on services elsewhere.
“The blame for this decision falls squarely at the door of the Conservative Government, who have chronically underfunded our health services for seven years. A popular well used service like this being shut shows just how desperate things have become under them. I am asking the CCG to think again and to join with us to campaign for properly funded services."
See full story in the Chester Leader