The opening hours at the Lincoln Walk-In-Centre are set to be reduced in its final weeks of service after more than half of full-time-equivalent staff left the facility.
Health bosses decided back in September that the Monks Road-based service would close, but only after the busy winter period and after a review in January into alternative provisions.
Campaigners have criticised what they call a ‘system of closure’, citing fears the service could disappear earlier than this, despite ongoing reviews.
Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which runs the walk in centre, noted in its monthly governing body meeting that the number of full time staff at the centre has reduced from 17 at the start of the consultation period to eight.
The board recommended that opening hours are reviewed “so that staff resource is deployed to cover periods of peak demand”.
Contractors say they expect opening hours would change in the New Year and the centre would also introduce bookable appointments as part of a ‘transition period’.
Attendances in the month following the decision to close the centre reduced by 26.8% when compared to the previous year.
Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust (LCHS), which runs the service on behalf of the CCG, explained that staff chose to leave the service and most have been redeployed within the trust.
Natalie McKee, head of clinical services for urgent care at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, said: “We are working closely with LWCCG to plan and implement the transition period, which we anticipate will see a reduction in opening hours in the New Year and the introduction of some bookable appointments.
“This will ensure the service can be safely managed during any peak period in demand. We are also exploring alternative future uses for the building.”
A spokesperson for campaign group Fighting4LifeLincolnshire told The Lincolnite: “The staff shortages have resulted in the walk in centre being no longer viable.
“The progress report on the walk-in-centre and the alternative provision will be presented to Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on December 13.
“Lincolnshire residents will be very familiar with this system of closure as it has happened in both Grantham and Louth hospitals.”
They added that they believed any further staffing shortages could lead to the early closure of the centre – But LCHS said agency staff were being used to cover shifts and plans were still to close the centre after the winter period.
NHS Lincolnshire West CCG told The Lincolnite it agreed to the following in its board meeting:
- Continue to support the roll-out of alternative provisions – namely Out of Hours GP access, NHS 111 and CAS, Community hubs, increased primary capacity across Lincs West CCG, use of local pharmacy walk-in facilities, and local surgery walk-in services.
- To adjust opening hours of the walk-in-centre as demand and staffing dictate.
- To further help patients understand alternative provisions through continuation of full communication and engagement plan.
- To support the continued implementation of transitional plan to enable walk in centre service to close at the end of the winter period.