Three walk-in services will close as overhaul of urgent care in Sunderland is approved

Houghton walk-in centre is one of three whose closure was rubber-stamped.
Houghton walk-in centre is one of three whose closure was rubber-stamped.
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NHS chiefs have approved plans to overhaul urgent care services in Sunderland.

The controversial scheme is set to see walk-in services in Washington, Houghton and Bunny Hill scrapped in favour of a more centralised offer at Pallion Health Centre and extra GP appointments.

Ann Fox, Sunderland CCG's director of nursing, quality and safety.

Ann Fox, Sunderland CCG's director of nursing, quality and safety.

But there was also a concession to campaigners who fought the changes with the addition of minor injuries treatment at Washington and Houghton.

Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body met today to approve the changes.

“Two years ago we got to the stage where a lot of services had changed for the better and we needed to look at urgent care,” said Ann Fox, the CCG’s director of nursing, quality and safety.

“We couldn’t leave things the way they were because of duplication and the public, when we spoke to them, said things were confusing.

“We also had to respond to national policy and that offered us the opportunity to make things simpler and more sustainable.”

The proposed changes, which were put out to public consultation last year, were based on a revamped 111 service run by the North East Ambulance Service.

Related: ‘We listened to the public’ say Sunderland health chiefs as they agree to close three urgent care centres

Instead of allowing patients to just turn up for treatment at walk-in centres in Washington, Houghton and Bunny Hill, they will be expected to call and be told where to go.

Under the proposals, this could see people sent to Pallion Health Centre of offered an extended hours GP appointment.

As part of the scheme care chiefs have promised to create up to 45,000 extra GP appointments.

But campaigners who opposed the plans were sceptical of whether the CCG would be able to achieve this.

There were also concerns about transport for patients forced to travel from Washington or the Coalfield area into the centre of Sunderland for treatment.

A ‘Recovery at Home’ service had been included, but after taking feedback from the public consultation into account, health bosses agreed to further concessions.

The new system will see extended access GP appointments available at:

Pallion Health Centre

Riverside Health Centre

Washington Primary Care Centre

Houghton Primary Care Centre

Bunny Hill Primary Care Centre

Washington and Houghton will also offer care for patients with ‘minor injuries’ – but the CCG was keen to stress appointments for this service was only to address travel concerns and would still require a referral from a GP or the 111 service.

However, CCG bosses also conceded they would need to do more to educate the public about the new system.

Opening hours:

GP extended access appointments will be available:

6pm-8.30pm, Monday to Friday

9am-5.30pm weekends

10am-2pm on bank holidays

Urgent treatment services at Pallion Health Centre will be available:

10am to 10pm, Monday to Friday

8am-10pm weekends and bank holidays

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service