Controversial changes to urgent care in Sunderland will not be referred to Government
Council bosses will not request a government review of a controversial overhaul of urgent care services in Sunderland.
The plans, which were approved by NHS chiefs in January, agreed to shut down walk-in services at Washington, Houghton and Bunny Hill and refer patients to Pallion Health Centre or offer a GP appointment.
But following concerns over transport and access to care, a late concession was made to continue providing minor injuries treatment in Houghton and Washington.
Protesters collected more than 14,000 signatures on petitions as they opposed the plans.
Last night (Wednesday, March 13), Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee accepted that, despite members’ unease over some aspects of the changes, there was not enough evidence to support a ‘call-in’ to the Department of Health and Social Care.
“I don’t think we’ve got grounds for a call-in [to the government],” said Coun Neil MacKnight.
“The CCG has listened, they have flexed their consultation and really that is largely down to public pressure.
“There is a service reduction, but it’s not as bad as it could have been.”
Under government rules, a review of the urgent care changes could only be requested if councillors had strong enough concerns about the consultation carried out by the Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation behind the plans.
According to a report prepared for the scrutiny committee, the panel felt there were ‘no strong grounds for referral’.
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However, members also agreed to write to the CCG to highlight issues such as patient travel and transport, opening hours, staffing and the use of the 111 service.
After last night’s meeting, Laura Murrell, secretary of the Sunderland branch of the Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) campaign, one of the leading groups opposing the proposed urgent care changes, said councillors’ decision was ‘not unexpected’.
She added: “I didn’t think there was sufficient grounds for a referral [to the government].
“I’m pleased the committee has taken on board a lot of the comments we made and we were particularly concerned that they hold the CCG to account and it appears they’re going to raise those questions and keep a keen eye on how things develop.
“It will be vital for the committee to keep an eye on things and that the CCG can justify its decision.”
PIC: Laura Murrell – Sunderland Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) branch secretary
James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service