Legal challenge to urgent care plans could cost Sunderland health bosses £238,000 per month

Any legal challenge could cost health bosses nearly �240,000 a month.
Any legal challenge could cost health bosses nearly �240,000 a month.

Plans to overhaul urgent care services in Sunderland could leave the city’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) with a £238,000-a-month bill if a judicial review is launched, a report has revealed.

On July 24, the CCG’s Governing Body heard an update on the ongoing public consultation for urgent care services at a meeting held in Bede Tower, Sunderland.

Under current CCG proposals, GPs could provide care through five extended access hubs and an Urgent Treatment Centre in Pallion.

An alternative option out for consultation also includes four hubs with the fifth joined with the Pallion centre.

Health bosses have previously stated that a new NHS 111 service will support the new model which would offer extended opening hours and help reduce the need for transfers between services.

But a new CCG Equality Impact Assessment, presented to the governing body this week, has revealed that formal or legal challenges to the plans could lead to a six-figure bill for monthly delays.

The report reads: “As a result of the Urgent Care Strategy programme of work, there is a risk that a member of the public or an organisation may launch a judicial review and/or Healthwatch or Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee may refer to the Secretary of State which could result in the programme being delayed at a cost of £238,000 per month.”

The governing body were also updated on the progress of the consultation, with data collected up to July 16.

This included 406 street surveys, 1,237 online surveys, 10 public events reaching 125 people, six focus groups and 300,000 hits on social media.

While the consultation had reached 74 per cent of 35-44 year olds in Sunderland so far, online survey results indicated 54 per cent of respondents or 668 people, said the proposed model fails to meet their needs.

As previously reported, fears have been raised about the plans and their potential impact on GP access and transport with a campaign also opposing potential service closures in Bunny Hill, Washington and Houghton.

The campaign has been backed by Sunderland City Council, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson and Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, who visited protestors earlier this month.

Urgent care clinical lead at the CCG and local GP, Tracey Lucas said concerns have been analysed during the consultation adding the extended access centres would be placed with “better access to urgent care in each of our localities”.

“The only people that will have to travel anywhere are those who have a minor injury that can’t be resolved by clinical advice,” she told the governing body.

Chairman of the Sunderland CCG, Dr Ian Pattison, added: “There aren’t as many GPs as there used to be.

“We have diversified and many of the roles that GPs used to do are now done by other members of staff.”

Dr Tracey Lucas, speaking after the meeting, added: “As a responsible body within the NHS, we regularly monitor and manage any risks associated with every service we commission.

“This enables us to make sure that we are making the best use of our resources and deliver the best possible care to the people of Sunderland.”

The urgent care consultation will close on September 2 and following a consultation feedback workshop, a decision is expected to be taken in December.

This will be subject to final approval from NHS England which is expected in the week commencing January 14, 2019.

To take part in the consultation, you can access a printed or online survey via www.sunderlandccg.nhs.uk or get a paper copy by calling (0191) 2172670.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service