Health bosses have delivered their knock-out blow to the Lincoln Walk-In-Centre on Monks Road, unanimously agreeing plans to close the service despite widespread public outrage.
Members of the Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body chose to close the centre after the 2017 winter period at a public meeting on Wednesday, September 27.
Their decision is particularly controversial with the 2,765 people who took part in the CCG’s consultation – 94% of whom were against the closure.
The meeting was also attended by campaigners, who made their sentiment known by leaving an unpleasant plateful of cow dung at the entrance, spiked with placards reading “STPs”, and “minimal impact to A&E”.
Previously, the CCG blamed students, particularly Chinese, tourists, and Eastern European citizens for using the centre “out of convenience”, but later admitted they made up just a small percentage of the over 30,000 visits in a year.
The CCG also claimed the service closure was not due to budget cuts, and that the consultation was not just a paper exercise. However, as reported previously, a whistleblower told The Lincolnite from the beginning that they believed the closure was “a done deal”.
Now the CCG governing body’s agreed to close the service, subject to a review in November and January to “strengthen primary care services”.
It will close early in 2018.
The voice of the public
Plans were announced alongside a public consultation in July. Local residents were asked to consider the closure of the service in return for improved digital and self-management services, plus a view to extend GP hours.
Proposals were instantly met with a storm of public opposition. In total, two petitions, including one presented by the University of Lincoln Students’ Union, gathered over 8,000 signatures against the proposition of losing the facility.
Formal objections were made by both Lincolnshire County Council, and the City of Lincoln Council. They were joined in their plea to consider keeping the service open by the current facility providers Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust.
In addition, a local law firm spoke out to warn that the closure of the centre would be ‘harmful to women’, suggesting that it could lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies. This was refuted by the CCG, which argued emergency contraception was offered free of charge through a number of agencies in the city.
What will be lost?
The centre, which has been open for around eight years, was one of more than 230 walk-in-centres opened by the NHS in England between 2000 and 2010. The aim at the time was to improve patient access to primary care.
It is currently open to the public on a no-appointment-necessary basis between 8am and 8pm.
The nurse-led service is one of a number of walk-in-centres to be outlined for closure across the country in recent years.
NHS Improvement stated in the latest review of walk-in-centres that local commissioners have closed more than 50 walk-in-centres in England between 2012 and 2014 alone.
The CCG’s view
Just minutes after the decision was passed through the governing body, the CCG released a statement laying out their plans for primary care services after the closure of the centre.
Sarah-Jane Mills, chief operating officer at NHS Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, said in a statement: “Our responsibility as commissioners is to get the best healthcare outcomes for the most patients we can – with the resources we have available.
“We completely understand people’s concerns but we believe this is the right thing to do as we seek to best serve our entire population.
“Our consultation was comprehensive and extensive. One strong message to come from the feedback was the Walk-in Centre is viewed as a convenient service. The NHS is now in a position where it must focus on clinical need as a priority.
“As evidenced during the near 10-week consultation, the vast majority of Walk-in Centre attendances can be dealt with at primary care level and therefore it is a duplicate service. Again, the NHS is no longer in a position to commission duplication.”