Changes to urgent care in Sunderland: Parking changes, centres lose services, and extra GP appointments

A raft of changes have been introduced at a Sunderland health centre as NHS bosses push ahead with plans to overhaul urgent care.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 10:16 am

Earlier this year, Sunderland’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approved a major shake-up of urgent care services in favour of a more centralised offer at Pallion Health Centre.

The controversial plans included scrapping urgent care services at centres in Washington, Houghton and Bunny Hill.

The new system aims to deliver care closer to home and is supported by a ‘extended access’ GP service freeing up thousands of extra GP appointments across the city.

Pallion Health Centre, Hylton Road

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Following consultation on the plans, a concession was given to campaigners who fought the changes with the addition of minor injuries treatment at Washington and Houghton.

At the centre of the scheme, Pallion Health Centre will also be upgraded to an ‘Urgent Treatment Centre’ providing services for Sunderland residents.

Councillors were updated on the scheme’s progress at the Pallion site ahead of its launch next month.

Parking changes and teething problems

Following ‘teething problems’ with the car park and feedback during consultation, changes have been made.

These include increasing the availability of parking and making the centre ready for the ambulance service.

Other recommendations for the site include new signage, dementia-friendly aspects such as carpet colour, more guide rails and processes for wheelchair access.

Dr Tracey Lucas, a local GP and clinical lead at the CCG, said the changes aimed to make the site “fit for purpose.”

“There was always a concern within the consultation that there wasn’t going to be enough space for everybody to park and part of that issue was around people not using the car park right,” she told councillors.

“We have made sure that we’ve looked at how the car park is utilised which has freed around 14 more spaces, which is enough.

“Alongside that, we needed to do a little bit of work to make sure our colleagues from the North East Ambulance Service can get in the door properly and park with ease.

“We had to do a bit of tweaking around how they parked so we gave them a better space and a little bit more space in the waiting room as that was also a concern.”

Extended access to services

The final stages of the urgent care strategy are on track for implementation by December 1.

The Bunny Hill urgent care service is set to be replaced by the extended access service the same month, delivering extra GP appointments.

Despite the loss of urgent care services, centres in Washington, Houghton and Bunny Hill willl remain open under the new model.

At the meeting, Coun Ronny Davison raised concerns about patients having to use public transport to access appointments.

Dr Tracey Lucas said that the only people who would need to travel would be a “small cohort of minor injury patients” – particularly in the Bunny Hill area.

She added that extended access services and their locations were based on travel analysis on the most accessible sites for people who live within those areas.

“I appreciate its not going to be fit for action in every single case and circumstance,” Dr Lucas told the meeting.

“When you’re planning system-wide change it has to be as fit for the majority and as best as you can get, with the best use of the resources and skills you’ve got.

“We’ve done our absolute level best in making sure needs are met in those services, particularly the Washington and Coalfields area, because its maybe more than two buses [to travel] as we found out in the consultation.

“We have tried to address it as best we can.”

Anyone who requires access to urgent care services should call either 111 or their GP practice.

The patient would then be offered the most suitable option depending on their location and clinical needs.