Newcastle-based company takes over Sunderland health centres

Washington Primary Care Centre.
Washington Primary Care Centre.
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THREE multimillion-pound health centres will change hands later this year, prompting concerns from union bosses, the Echo can reveal.

In a major shift of care, Newcastle-based Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC) will take over the running of Wearside’s urgent care health centres based in Houghton, Washington and Downhill.

But while NDUC say they are “confident” they can bring their “expertise as a leading urgent care provider to the people of Sunderland”, union bosses have taken a more cautious approach.

The three centres each have patient walk-in facilities which aimed to relieve pressure on the A&E department at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Stephen Mead, area organiser for Unison in Sunderland, said: “One of our concerns is that this contract effectively removes from Sunderland the responsibility for primary care at the Houghton, Washington and Bunny Hill centres.

“Not only this, but if this contract has been won at a lower cost than the current contract, we would be concerned some services could be at risk.

“We believe these services should be retained and fully operated by the NHS. The question is, are the people of Sunderland going to suffer as a result of these changes?”

Heather Maughan, clinical development manager for NDUC, said: “We are now in the preparatory period and are very much looking forward to delivering an excellent service from September 1.

“We will be working very closely with staff to ensure we use their knowledge to help further develop improve the existing services. We will also be working with local people to ensure that they also have a say in what works really well now and what they would see as an improvement.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We’re changing the way that people access urgent care services by commissioning GP Led Urgent Care Centres including a new Urgent Care Centre in Houghton alongside existing Bunny Hill and Washington sites.

“This has meant we’ve needed to procure these new services.”