Karen Lee: Lincoln walk-In centre replacements are not enough

This story is over

I believe that the closure of the walk-in centre is at the expense of the health care provision provided to the constituents of Lincoln. This week, I finally received a response from Lincolnshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Department of Health which raised questions over the adequacy of the proposed alternatives to the closed walk-in centre.

The decision to close the walk-in centre was based on an ignored consultation and the claim that service provisions are duplicated. I do not believe that a decision based on this rationale is justifiable. I am also not satisfied with the insufficient alternative provisions implemented to replace the flexible access to health care which the walk-in centre provided.

The consultation process demonstrated that Lincoln residents are overwhelmingly against the CCG’s plans. The public relied on the convenience of the walk-in centre to access timely medical assistance, while A&E departments are increasingly over-pressured and over-worked.

The CCG acknowledges this, as the walk-in was routinely used “as a convenience service”, meeting its intended use when implemented by the previous Labour government. This is particularly crucial considering that the latest health scrutiny committee found that over a third of those who cannot access a GP appointment used the walk-in centre instead, and that it was used as a second-choice more than A&E.

The idea that the replacement provision will make up for this overlooks the principle of ‘convenience’ which walk-in centres provide.

Photo: Karen Lee MP

I have been told that Lincoln would receive 4 ‘mini-walk-in’ hubs to replace the walk-in centre. After closer examination, this is not the case. These are by appointment only and are across Lincolnshire, which does not meet the health requirements of the people of Lincoln or the convenience element of the closed walk-in.

The CCG has not confirmed that a hub will be opened in Lincoln and hubs will not be rolled out until October 2018. The government are letting the people of Lincoln down.

This lack of accountability speaks to a wider trend of reorganisation within the NHS which poses a long-term threat to free healthcare. It is deeply worrying if CCGs are not going to listen to the concerns of residents before closing local health services. This is the latest example of the NHS being run like a for-profit private business rather than a health service that works for the many. 

On a weekly basis, people get in touch with me to explain how they cannot get a GP appointment. Health care provision in Lincoln is being degraded due to a lack of access and the added pressures are only going to fall on the overworked A&E and East Midlands ambulance service. 

As an Opposition MP, I have fought to hold the government to account on this matter. Unfortunately, the government’s resolve to ignore the issue is clear.