14,158-strong petition opposes proposed urgent care changes in Sunderland

Campaign launched against the move to close the urgent care centres, from left Coun Alex Scullion, local resident Painer Meek, Coun Kevin Johnston,  Coun Juliana Heron and  Coun Jack Cunningham.
Campaign launched against the move to close the urgent care centres, from left Coun Alex Scullion, local resident Painer Meek, Coun Kevin Johnston, Coun Juliana Heron and Coun Jack Cunningham.

Almost 15,000 people have backed a petition opposing plans to change how urgent care is offered in Sunderland.

Currently, patients can go for treatment for injuries which are not life-threatening at primary care centres in Houghton, Washington and Bunny Hill.

Caption: KONP Sunderland & District campaigners and Coun Kevin Johnston (centre) at Sunderland Civic Centre

Caption: KONP Sunderland & District campaigners and Coun Kevin Johnston (centre) at Sunderland Civic Centre

Under proposals, urgent care services would only be available at Pallion Health Centre – next to Sunderland Royal Hospital – with GP services delivered at five extended access hubs – or four hubs with the fifth joined with the Pallion centre.

Between May and September, around 2,500 people gave  feedback in a Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) consultation with results expected next month.

Campaigners from Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) Sunderland & District have now gathered to present a 14,158-strong petition at full council.

As previously reported, fears were raised about potential service closures, GP access and transport with a campaign backed by Sunderland City Council and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson.

Coun Kevin Johnston, presenting the petition at Sunderland Civic Centre, said the aim was to make the city CCG fully aware of the “strength of feeling” against the proposals.

Noting the public response to the CCG consultation, he asked the council to “ensure that the real voice of Sunderland is heard.”

The petition numbers are split between around 6,453 physical signatures, with the remainder made up of online responses.

Campaigners’ concerns also include the lack of clarity around future locations used for the service, existing and future pressure on GP services and the potential of patients having to travel long distances to access services.

A spokeswoman for KONP Sunderland & District, speaking after the meeting, added the urgent care review is “primarily a means of saving money and will not improve services.”

She added: “In fact, we believe that their proposals will make services much worse and may even be dangerous.”

The petition also called for a referral to the council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee for consideration and inclusion in its submission to the CCG.

The findings of the urgent care consultation and draft report will be shared with the public on Monday, October 1, between 6pm and 8pm at Bede Tower, close to Sunderland city centre.

Chief Officer at NHS Sunderland’s CCG, David Gallagher, speaking after the meeting, said: “I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views on the proposals for urgent care services in Sunderland.

“We know how much the people of Sunderland value their local health services, that’s why it is so important we get these services right.

“From May 9 to September 2 we have engaged with over 2,500 people as part of the urgent care consultation.

“The feedback received from the public will be extremely influential in how we shape future urgent care services and we will soon be entering a period where we consider this feedback.

“It’s good to see that people are passionate about their local health services and we will consider the petition alongside all other evidence and information which contributes to an overall picture of public opinion.

“We want to share what we have heard from the consultation before we make any decisions and I would urge anyone who is interested in hearing what people have said about the proposals to come along to the feedback event on October 1 at Bede Tower at 6pm.

“The public’s health remains our number one priority and we are working hard to ensure that services are safe and sustainable for the future.”