Nursing jobs under threat at Sunderland walk-in centre

Bunny Hill Medical Centre - Downhill, Sunderland.
Bunny Hill Medical Centre - Downhill, Sunderland.
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TWENTY nursing jobs at a Sunderland walk-in centre are under threat, it has been revealed.

The news comes after Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC) successfully bid to Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to run care centres at Houghton, Washington and Bunny Hill earlier this year.

NDUC says the new sites will be“GP-led”, with nursing assistants working alongside doctors to treat patients.

As a result, the jobs of nine staff nurses, six healthcare assistants and five junior practitioners at Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre are now facing the axe.

NDUC, which will take over the centres on September 1, have sent a letter to staff that the roles are now potentially “at risk”.

It stated that “for economic and organisational reasons, it will not be able to sustain the full workforce”.

One woman who works at Bunny Hill, but did not want to be named, said: “I don’t see how this will work. It will be appointment-only but we have 20 patients coming in to see us before 9am on a typical day.

“A lot of staff are worried about getting redundancy payments too if they are going to lose their jobs.”

Existing staff who are based at Bunny Hill could also be used to provide cover for absences at Houghton or Washington urgent care centes, or walk-in centres at Jarrow, in South Tyneside, or Eston, which is on Teesside.

A consultation over the plans is now taking place with staff ahead of the hand-over date.

Dave Gallagher, chief officer for NHS Sunderland CCG, said: “Receiving a formal letter like this can be really unsettling for staff but I would like to reassure them that there is a strong commitment from Northern Doctors to minimise anyone being made redundant.

“The letter highlights that redeployment opportunities will be sought for anyone affected for jobs within Northern Doctors’ other services and with other local health providers.

“I know times of change can be difficult. These changes are about making sure patients get the right urgent care treatment at the right time.

“Having clinical staff in the right places is key to making these changes to turn walk-in centres into new urgent care centres from September 1 and will make it less confusing for people to get the care they need when they need it.”

John Harrison, chief executive at NDUC, said: “Our focus in Sunderland will be to offer an improved, GP-led walk-in service at three urgent care centres.

“Discussions have been taking place between South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and Northern Doctors Urgent Care with a view to minimising the risks presented to any jobs.

“Our priority is to make sure that the urgent care arrangements in Sunderland are staffed appropriately.

“However, as the service will place a greater emphasis on GP-led provision to provide patients with an optimal level of care, it may not be possible to sustain the full current workforce.

“Where necessary, we will be looking at opportunities to redeploy staff to other areas.

“Consultation is currently ongoing for many of these business changes and no decisions will be made until all staff members and their representatives have had an opportunity to provide their thoughts.

“We are looking forward to working with the teams in Sunderland to deliver a high-quality service to patients in the city.”