MINOR injuries units at health centres across Sunderland have failed to take the pressure off the city’s stretched A&E department, NHS bosses admitted today.
The multimillion-pound centres were built with the intention of helping alleviate the numbers of patients seeking help at hospital A&E, but figures revealed to the Echo show they have failed to have the desired effect.
As revealed earlier this week, NHS chiefs are looking to close the minor injuries unit at Grindon Lane Primary Care Centre and moving it to Houghton Primary Care Centre.
Today they defended their plans, saying that to have four minor injuries units operating, rather than three, would mean them having to spend an extra £2million.
Dr Iain Gilmour, vice-chairman of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Grindon Lane was opened to take the pressure off the A&E department, but we have seen that the centres have failed to have the impact on A&E that we had hoped.”
Figures show that since the opening of the minor injuries units at Grindon, Downhill, and Washington, A&E attendances at Sunderland Royal Hospital have remained constant rather than falling and the number of people seeking help from the minor injuries unit has increased steadily.
This forced health chiefs to reconsider plans to open an additional unit at Houghton. They hope that by moving the current unit from Grindon to Houghton, they will create a “more integrated service model”.
Answering concerns that the £6million spent to open Grindon had been wasted, Dr Gilmour said: “If there is to be no walk-in centre, we are looking to do more community services such as x-ray, ultrasound and echocardiology (heart scanning). We are already extending cardiology services at Grindon Lane.”
Addressing fears that the latest move could leave Sunderland Royal Hospital’s A&E department inundated with patients and unable to cope, Dr Gilmour added that a GP service is being piloted at the hospital site.
He said: “There are GPs at Sunderland Royal working to cover eight hours a day. If that service evaluates well, we will look to expand it.”
A three-month consultation is set to begin next month into what changes will happen with minor injuries care in Sunderland.
“No decisions have been taken as of yet about this and won’t be until the consultation is completed,” said Dr Gilmour.