A Birmingham health boss has pledged there are no plans to shut the city’s walk-in centres in the ‘short to medium’ term, but could offer no long-term reassurances over the eight medical facilities.
Dr Gavin Ralston, Chairman of Birmingham CrossCity Clinical Commissioning Group, said they were currently reviewing urgent care services which may lead to changes.
The news comes as a report published by health watchdog Monitor revealed 53 of 258 centres have been closed in the UK since the last general election in 2010.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also stated in the House of Commons that a current review of emergency care services will not shy away from taking “difficult decisions”.
He hinted at possible closures to urgent and emergency health services, telling MPs the public had often been left confused by the wide range of ways to seek medical help. A review by NHS England suggested changes could include the biggest 40 to 70 Accident and Emergency – specialising in heart attacks, strokes and trauma – be called major emergency centres.
It would leave the remaining 70 to 100 A&Es – known as emergency centres – to deal with less serious conditions.
Campaigns took place earlier this year to save both the Erdington and Selly Oak walk-in centres, and the latest announcement seems to protect the city’s facilities – for the time being.
“We are working on a review of urgent care in Birmingham and Solihull,” said Dr Ralston.
“Due to the complexity of the situation, there is no intention in the short to medium term to close any of the current centres.
“However, during this time we will take the opportunity to review the centres’ service specification and opening hours to ensure that they add maximum value to the system.
“The urgent care review will require significant involvement and commitment from those providing health and care and our brief may be adapted as further evidence is gathered” said Dr Ralston.
“It would therefore be premature at this stage to give timescales or pre-empt the outcome of the review.”
The chairman also outlined plans to introduce a pilot, GP-led service within one of the hospital’s A&E departments.
Solihull Healthcare and Walk-in Centre have an agreement with ambulance services to receive their non-emergency patients, or patients with minor injuries that can be treated in primary care, directly into the walk-in centre.
One critic, Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Selly Oak, branded possible closures ‘reckless’. Mr McCabe, who led the campaign to save the “walk-in” on Katie Road, said: “I have been asking my constituents about how much they value Katie Road Walk-In Centre and not surprisingly 72 per cent of people had used this Walk-In Centre either because they were seeking care out of hours or they couldn’t get an appointment with their own GP. Thirty nine per cent of people said if the walk-in centre was closed they would have gone to A&E instead. This just shows it would be reckless to close these valued services.
“In June I raised the fact that South Birmingham Walk-In Centre on Katie Road was only safe for another 12 to 18 months and after that nothing was certain, this is just not good enough.”