Health chiefs yesterday brought down the axe on the Lincoln Walk-In-Centre despite 94% of those surveyed voting against the move. We asked elected leaders and health groups how they will be responding in the interests of the public.
The announcement followed an exercise that saw thousands of people object to the move in an official consultation, combined with protests and petitions.
Leaders in the city gave their reactions to the confirmed closure:
Health Secretary appeal
Member of Parliament for Lincoln Karen Lee said: “As a healthcare professional, I understand that the delivery of health care changes and evolves with the passing of time. However, I am not supportive of the closure of the walk-in centre because it is my belief that its closure is a downgrading of the health provision my constituents will be able to access.
“Further to that, I am uncomfortable that the consultation process undertaken does not appear to have been a meaningful one, given that 94% of respondents expressed the wish for the walk-in-centre to remain open and the voice of local people has been ignored.
“The walk-in centre’s closure is likely to put A&E under an even greater strain than it already is. I have seen first-hand the pressures the hard-working A&E professionals are already experiencing.
“The decision by the CCG needs to be reviewed.
“I will be writing to Jeremy Hunt MP to request the decision is reviewed on the basis that the provisions are not sufficient in ensuring an effective level of care.
“It is my sincere view that the chronic underfunding of our NHS by the current government has meant our local CCG has been forced to make these unpopular changes to local healthcare provisions.”
‘Funding crisis’ a main factor
Sarah Fletcher, CEO of local watchdog Healthwatch Lincolnshire, said: “Healthwatch Lincolnshire feel it is too soon to understand what if any real changes have happened.
“Whilst we have been given updates from reports produced by the CCG, for Healthwatch reports only tell part of the story.
“If West CCG have not done all their homework properly, then it will become apparent very quickly that any additionally provided services will not meet demand.
“However, we would agree that patients have a range of services available that should be considered including talking to a pharmacist. The concern comes when patients feel they are being forced to make ‘self-diagnosis and treatments’ rather than going to visit their GP, believing the messages are suggesting this
“At this moment in time we do not believe there is any chance the decision to close the Walk in Centre can be altered.
“The serious funding issues the 4 CCGs in Lincolnshire are facing, coupled with the fact that organisations such as United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust are facing significant funding crisis, has been one of the main reasons West CCG has made the decision to close.”
Further evidence needed
Councillor Carl Macey, Chairman of the Health Scrutiny Committee for Lincolnshire County Council, said: “In December, the Health Scrutiny Committee heard from the CCG about work to improve access to GPs, the development of alternative provisions to the Walk-In Centre and plans to promote these.
“The committee were satisfied that progress is being made but requested further evidence to be presented to our February meeting, to substantiate this.
“The committee has always expressed concerns that the Walk-In Centre should only be closed when these alternatives are fully in place and are shown to be providing what those patients need, without putting extra pressure on A&E in particular.
“We will be looking to the CCG to provide the evidence so the committee can be assured of this before any further actions are decided.”
‘A&E won’t be impacted’
Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which runs hospitals in the county, Jan Sobieraj said: “We have been reassured that the closure of the Lincoln walk-in centre won’t impact the A&E department and are pleased that additional services for patients will be in place for local residents.
“We remain committed to working closely with our partners to ensure that patients are directed to the services that can best meet their needs and attendances at our A&Es are focused on seriously ill patients.”
Lincolnshire Community Health Services Trust was contracted by Lincolnshire West CCG to provide services at the Walk-In-Centre. Many members of staff have already left the centre.
Andrew Morgan, chief executive of Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, said: “We have been working closely with the CCG to ensure any transition period can be managed safely in the interests of our patients and staff.
“The walk-in-centre team has shown an exceptional level of professionalism and dedication throughout this process.
“While it has, at times, proved challenging, the team have continued to provide an excellent service and has been grateful for all of the messages of gratitude and support from members of the public.”
City of Lincoln Council Leader Richard Metcalfe was also contacted by The Lincolnite, but he did not give a response by the time of publishing.