PEOPLE voiced their concerns at a public meeting to discuss controversial plans to close a minor injuries unit in Sunderland.
NHS bosses are considering closing the walk-in centre in Grindon Lane and moving its operations to Houghton Primary Care Centre.
The move, which has been described as “devastating” and raised fears that patients could go “untreated”, led to a series of meetings being organised to debate the “new model” of NHS care.
Debra Waller, councillor for Sandhill, was among up to 40 people who attended the first meeting at the Sandhill Centre, in Grindon Lane.
“There was a pretty good turnout for the meeting, people were very, very concerned about the proposed changes,” she said.
“This is going to have a huge impact on the community, people of all ages, if it goes ahead.
“Between 50,000 and 80,000 people use the centre every year.
“We are desperate to see it stay open.”
The new GP commissioners, NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), working together with NHS South of Tyne and Wear on behalf of Sunderland Teaching Primary Care Trust, has launched the consultation.
According to the proposals, a new 24-hour urgent care centre will be developed at Sunderland Royal Hospital, leading to the closure of the minor injury and illness unit at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre.
The centre itself will remain open and continue to provide a range of health services.
“Closing the walk-in centre will mean patients will have to travel into Sunderland, patients who may be elderly or disabled, and the problem of parking at the hospital is a major worry,” said Coun Waller.
“There is a concern that it will put people off going for help.
“We hope these meetings will help convince those responsible to keep it open.”
A new GP-led minor injury and illness unit will be developed at Houghton Primary Care Centre.
Health bosses said this would “ensure more equitable access to urgent and emergency care services” in the city.
Minor injury and illness services would also continue to be provided at Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre, and Washington Primary Care Centre.
Dr Ian Pattison, chairman of Sunderland CCG and a GP, said: “Opening a new minor injury and illness unit at Houghton Primary Care service will ensure that local people have better access to treatment for minor ailments than they do at the moment.
“It’s a priority for the CCG to ensure that we provide equal access to these types of services across the city of Sunderland.”
Dr Iain Gilmour, vice-chairman of Sunderland CCG and urgent care lead, said they were committed to “delivering excellent health outcomes” for patients.
“Whatever the need, whatever the location, we want to make sure that people get the right care, from the right person, in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Patients and the general public can have their say about the proposal by completing a questionnaire, which is available at www.sotw.nhs.uk/yoursay/consultations or by calling 529 7038.
They are also encouraged to attend one of the public meetings being held across the city.
The next will take place at the Sunderland Bangladeshi Community Centre, in Tatham Street, on Tuesday, October 16, followed by another at Houghton Primary Care Centre, in Brinkburn Crescent, on Tuesday, November 6.
The final meeting will be held at the Sandhill Centre, in Grindon Lane, on Tuesday, November 20.
All have a 6pm start time.
The consultation closes on November 30.