Sunderland urgent care reforms criticised in public consultation

Pallion Health Centre, in Hylton Road, Sunderland.
Pallion Health Centre, in Hylton Road, Sunderland.

Large areas of Sunderland could be left with patchy access to urgent care if reforms are forced through, health chiefs have been warned.

Plans being considered could see the closure of urgent care services at walk-in centres in Bunny Hill, Houghton and Washington.

Instead, patients would be sent to Pallion Health Centre, next to Sunderland Royal Hospital, or offered out of hours GP appointments.

But a consultation on the scheme has found significant scepticism, despite the best efforts of Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group to bring the public round.

According to the report, which was published today on October 15 and saw more than 2,500 people respond: “The closure of local urgent care centres and the move to delivery of an urgent treatment centre at Pallion Health Centre may favour those that live in close proximity to this location, at the detriment of those who live in outlying areas, particularly Washington and Coalfields.

“Strong concerns were raised about the health impact that this would have on those that would be unable to travel to this location.

“People felt the proposal would have a significant negative impact on vulnerable groups notably the elderly, families with young children, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues as well as those on low incomes through additional requirements to travel, when they may not be able to or afford to.”

Three online petitions with a total of 7,542 signatures were submitted calling for the walk-in centres to be saved.

Concern was also raised by GPs about the consultation itself.

According to the report: “GP practices expressed genuine concerns over the ability of the system to cope with the proposed model.

“They also highlight perceived inaccuracy in the consultation messaging, which appeared to suggest the extended access service would allow people to see their own GP, when in fact service would be delivered through remote hubs.”

However, the Sunderland GP Alliance, a group of 36 practices covering about 250,000 patients, was generally supportive of the proposed model.

Ann Fox, the CCG’s director of Nursing, Quality and Safety said: “I would like to thank everyone who contributed to the consultation through our events, taking part in surveys or focus groups, by writing to us or by calling us to give us their views.”

The report was published two weeks later than expected due to the high volume of responses.

The public now have the chance to comment on the consultation findings ahead of a decision in January.

Changes would then be expected to be implemented in April.

A public meeting to discuss the report’s findings is due to be held on Monday, October 22, 6-8pm at Bede Tower, in Burdon Road, Sunderland.

A second event will be held on Tuesday, October 23, at Houghton Welfare Hall, in Brinkburn Cresent, Houghton le Spring.

James Harrison , Local Democracy Reporting Service