New £23million health centre branded a “white elephant” as services fail to get off the ground

Brain Nelson (left) and Coun. Colin Wakefield hoping to find why the minor injuries unit at the Houghton Primary Care Centre is not open, dispite the Centre being open for some time.

Brain Nelson (left) and Coun. Colin Wakefield hoping to find why the minor injuries unit at the Houghton Primary Care Centre is not open, dispite the Centre being open for some time.

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Questions are being asked about why people are being turned away from the facility, which would stop them needing to use Sunderland Royal Hospital’s A&E department.

The centre is supposed to have a minor injuries unit, but it’s claimed that patients are being told there are no staff to deal with them.

Those wanting treatment for minor injuries have instead had to travel to the walk-in centre at Grindon Lane in Sunderland.

More than 20 rehabilitation beds are also included at Houghton Primary Care Centre (PCC), but are, as yet, not being used.

Independent councillor Colin Wakefield, who represents Copt Hill ward, described the facility as “a white elephant”.

He said: “I think it’s a scandalous waste of public money.

“It’s a fantastic facility and for it to be standing practically empty is criminal.”

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“We fought hard to get this building here because it’s one of the furthest away from Sunderland Royal.”

NHS officials say they are about to begin a consultation process to develop services at the building, which was officially opened on September 1 last year.

Services currently on offer include physiotherapy as well as sexual and mental health.

Councillors and health campaigners are now calling for something to be done about the minor injuries unit.

Brian Nelson is chairman of the Coalfield Cluster Patients’ Group, as well as an NHS Design Champion and was involved in the building of Houghton PCC.

He said: “It cost £23million and it’s appalling that the place is not fully open.

“We’ve been here half-an-hour today and seen about seven people come in wanting to be treated for minor injuries and they are getting turned away.

“It’s not just the people of Houghton who are suffering because of this.

“I’ve been told of people coming from as far as Easington and Murton to be treated here.

“I’ve suggested that they cover up the Minor Injuries Unit sign, but they haven’t.”

Coun Sheila Ellis, who represents Houghton, said: “I’ve had local residents saying that they’ve come here to be seen and then turned away and told to go and see a doctor because there’s nobody around.”

A spokeswoman for Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We understand people’s concerns about having to travel to access minor injury and illness services.

“We are currently planning to develop a service at Houghton Primary Care Centre to meet local needs as part of our work to improve urgent and emergency care provision for people in Sunderland.

“We will be seeking the views of the public, patients and other stakeholders about urgent and emergency services in Sunderland in the near future as part of a consultation process.”

Dr Iain Gilmour, vice-chair of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We need to make sure that we have the right services available in Sunderland to meet the needs of local people.

“We will be asking the public and patients for their views about the future shape of minor injury and illness service in Sunderland soon, including the planned service at Houghton Primary Care Centre”.

Twitter: @davidallison88