NHS walk-in centres used by tens of thousands of patients across Birmingham and Solihull are under threat after health bosses announced a review into their future.
The eight centres could face the axe in a wide-ranging study carried out by a GP-led commissioning group introduced as part of the Government’s NHS reforms.
They currently serve thousands of patients each year. The Erdington centre alone treats more than 1,000 cases every month.
A spokesperson for new health body, Birmingham Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group, stressed that no decisions had so far been taken.
Walk-in centres are usually managed by a nurse and allow patients to turn up without an appointment to receive advice or treatment for minor illnesses and injuries.
There appears to have been no formal announcement that a review is being carried out. MPs and councillors have launched campaigns to save centres in the Birmingham constituency of Erdington and in Solihull, after they learned of the proposals.
However, the commissioning group confirmed that all eight centres are included in a review of services, and a public consultation is due to begin later in the year.
Campaigners opposing the closures include Erdington resident Peter McDonald, who suffered a heart attack in Erdington High Street just yards from the walk-in centre.
He managed to walk in and within minutes was seen by a doctor who treated him with a glyceryl trinitrate spray, which can dilate the veins and arteries in the body and makes it easier for the heart to function.
Mr McDonald, a former baker aged 59, was then taken by ambulance to Heartlands Hospital, where he underwent surgery.
He said: “I believe the walk-in centre saved my life. I had a heart attack in the street and I was in trouble.”
The centres under review are Birmingham NHS Walk-in Centre, on the lower ground floor of Boots in Birmingham city centre; Washwood Heath Urgent Care Centre; The Hill General Practice and Urgent Care Centre, in Sparkhill; Summerfield Urgent Care Centre, in Winson Green; Erdington Health and Wellbeing Walk-in GP Centre; South Birmingham GP Walk-in Centre, in Selly Oak; Warren Farm Urgent Care Centre, in Kingstanding, and Solihull Healthcare and Walk-in Centre.
MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull) helped collect 2,000 signatures on a petition to save the centre, which is on the site of Solihull Hospital.
She said: “People really appreciate the flexibility of just being able to walk in without needing to book an appointment at a GP surgery.”
And raising his concerns in the House of Commons, Erdington MP Jack Dromey (Lab) said: “In Birmingham and Britain, vital walk-in centres at the heart of our communities are under threat because of the government’s top-down reorganisation of the NHS, something they promised they would never do.”
He added: “The Erdington Walk-in Centre provides accessible high quality medical care seven days a week from eight to eight. With no alternative service within the immediate locality, the closure of this much-used and much-loved facility would be a devastating blow.”
Councillors have also campaigned to save the clinic and a petition backed by Coun Robert Alden (Con, Erdington) has received hundreds of signatures.
A spokesman from Birmingham Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We would like to make it clear that no decision has been taken on the future of the eight walk-in centres in Birmingham and Solihull.
“We have been gathering information on the services provided for urgent care, including seeking patient views on access to urgent care.
“This is intended to inform a plan across Birmingham and Solihull to support improved access, patient experience and equity. We are not looking at walk-in centres in isolation. We are talking to patients and professionals about their views on improving urgent care services as this will help us make the best decisions for the future.
“We recognise that people are very keen to know the next steps and we plan to publish further information on the initial recommendations shortly.”
No formal consultation has yet begun and there are no publicly-available documents setting out the options.
The group says it is “undertaking a review” and has conducted a survey of patients, while a document setting out options will be published later this year.
A review of the future of walk-in and urgent care centres was launched by NHS trusts in 2012. However, these trusts, called primary care trusts, were abolished and replaced by clinical commissioning groups as part of the Government’s reforms to the NHS, and responsibility for the review now lies with Birmingham Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group.
The aim was to place health professionals directly in charge of commissioning healthcare. The chair of Birmingham Cross City Clinical Commissioning Group is GP Gavin Ralston, a partner in a Harborne-based medical practice and an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham.