A WALK-IN centre which treats tens of thousands of Wearsiders each year has slashed its opening hours from today.
Grindon minor injuries unit will now be open just 12 hours a day, from 8am to 8pm, although it will still be available seven days a week.
Following a consultation in 2012, health chiefs admitted that the introduction of walk-in centres had failed to significantly take the strain off Sunderland Royal Hospital’s A&E department, and therefore decided closing Grindon as a walk-in centre would be the best option.
But it is only now that its hours have been formally reduced from a 24-hour operation and services such as ultrasounds, X-rays and specialist health management will remain at the Sandhill site.
Other walk-in centres are open, also eight hours a day, seven days a week, at the Bunny Hill Centre in Downhill, and at Washington Primary Care Centre.
Bosses have said they want to create a new walk-in centre at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Dr Ian Pattison, chairman of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “As part of our on-going review into urgent care services for the city, and after discussions with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust who operate the service, we decided to reduce the opening hours of Grindon Lane, which brings it into line with the opening hours of other minor injury units at Bunny Hill and Washington.
“Patients who need urgent primary health care are asked to telephone the NHS 111 service who will advise on the most appropriate service for the health needs, including access to the out-of-hours GP service.”
Houghton Primary Care Centre, a £23million facility opened in 2012, has however been earmarked as a place where patients can be treated for minor injuries and ailments, but is yet to provide those kind of services.
Copt Hill ward councillor, Colin Wakefield, today hit out at the lack of progress on Houghton being able to treat those with minor injuries.
“It is utterly ridiculous that this great building is still not fully functional,” he said.
“The Houghton-le-Spring district was, and still is, the most in need for a walk-in minor injuries unit, being the most distant from the royal hospital.
“For the walk-in unit still not to be up and running is nothing short of a scandal.
“Whilst the NHS continue to complain about the over-use of A&E facilities, the £23million building in Houghton which has been open for two years and would relieve pressure on A&E facilities, is still not fully functional. Even worse, we don’t even get the courtesy of an update to when it will fully open.”