Money may not be the only consideration in plans being discussed that would see the closure of the Station Plaza NHS Walk-in Centre.
According to Lindsey Williams, who attended a public meeting held last Friday to discuss the threatened closure, the reasons given were down to plans to redefine the commissioning of health care centres across the country, although she says that later in the meeting it was acknowledged that finance was a key issue in the debate.
Until now the reason cited for the proposed closure has always been the need by NHS Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to find savings of £18m from its budget.
Hastings MP Amber Rudd called the public meeting that was held at Sussex Coast College last Friday. Since early Sprimg there has been local concern about plans by the CCG to close the Station Plaza walk-in centre and relocate it to the Conquest Hospital. Friday’s meeting was attended by representatives from the CCG including the group’s chief officer Amanda Philpott and gave local people a chance to make their feelings known and to ask questions.
After an opening statement by Ms Philpott, residents were given the opportunity to quiz CCG delegates about the new proposals. The main issue raised was that of location, with residents expressing concerns with the plans to move the Walk-In Centre from its current location in central Hastings to the northern edge of town. Several residents made clear their opposition to the proposals, arguing that such a move would limit access to the walk-in centre for those who require its services the most, in particular, elderly residents and visitors to Hastings.
After the meeting Ms Rudd said: “The good turnout at the meeting held late on a Friday afternoon reflects the strength of feeling, as well as the concerns that many residents here in Hastings have with regards to these proposals. I am grateful to Peter Chowney, leader of Hastings Borough Council for attending this meeting.
“It is important that when plans such as these are put forward, that local residents feel that they are being properly listened to. One of the most valuable assets of the NHS Walk-In Centre is its location, being located right in the centre of Hastings town. It is because of this that I am committed to working with residents to stop the proposed move of the centre away from its current central location from taking place.”
Mr Chowney has been a leading voice in the campaign to save the centre from closure and spoke at a meeting outside the centre on Sunday, he said: “I was pleased to be able to speak at the rally on Sunday at Hastings Station Plaza Health Centre to oppose the closure of the GP Walk-In service there.
“The local CCG is talking about the possibility of an Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC), and using this as a reason to relocate the walk-in GP service to Conquest Hospital. But UTCs are a different thing altogether, and it’s far from certain that we’ll get one here.
“The Walk-In GP service is essential for several reasons. It serves one of the most deprived communities in Hastings, around the town centre, but it also provides a GP service for those who work in the town centre too. It’s used by the growing number of street homeless, with Seaview often referring people to the centre. It’s also used by local people who can’t get on a GP list, because of the GP shortage in Hastings and it’s used by the language schools, who refer their students there.
“Relocating the service to the Conquest, where it would become an add-on to the existing A&E department, isn’t an option. The Conquest Hospital, right on the northern edge of Hastings, is difficult to get to from the town centre, especially if you don’t have a car, and simply isn’t accessible for many people who use this Station Plaza service.”
Two petitions are running to as part of the campaign to save the centre folow these links if you would like to sign them
Mr Chowney says: “Through street stalls around town, we’ve collected a lot of signatures on paper forms too. Hastings needs the walk-in GP service to remain open. And we need a commitment from the CCG to keep it open permanently, not just a year’s extension to the contract. Without this service, the health of many vulnerable people will suffer.”