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Answers demanded over the future of urgent care centre

North Tyneside General Hospital, Rake Lane, North Shields
North Tyneside General Hospital, Rake Lane, North Shields

Fresh calls are being made for a hospital facility to be open 24/7.

Pressure is mounting on the NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to re-open the urgent care centre at North Tyneside General Hospital overnight.

The facility was closed from midnight to 8am last December by health chiefs to ensure staff were available at the Northumbria emergency hospital in Cramlington.

But while Hexham and Wansbeck general hospitals have seen their urgent care centres re-open overnight, North Tyneside remains closed.

Mayor Norma Redfearn and North Tyneside Council is calling on the CCG to re-open the centre overnight, and for a full consultation on the proposals.

Mrs Redfearn said: “Residents of the borough are extremely concerned about changes to the urgent care facilities at North Tyneside General Hospital.

“People with urgent care needs are frequently being treated between Cramlington, Wansbeck and North Tyneside, which makes travelling to get treatment and visiting ill relatives very difficult.”

Campaigners are also calling for the centre to be re-opened.

Save North Tyne NHS are holding a public rally in North Shields town centre, outside the Co-op, on Saturday at noon.

But Dr John Matthews, chair of NHS North Tyneside CCG, said: “Urgent care services in North Tyneside do operate 24/7, through the minor injuries and minor ailment walk-in centres during the day and the GP out-of-hours service at night time.

“Over the past month we have been listening to people’s views about plans for a new urgent care service.

“This will continue to provide a 24/7 service through a single minor injuries and minor ailment urgent treatment centre for North Tyneside between 8am and 10pm, backed up by NHS 111 and a GP home visiting service at night. A&E is not affected by these plans.”

“The Rake Lane walk-in centre was used by around three patients per night, with around two-thirds of these needing either no treatment or very minor treatment.

“Reopening the centre at night time would mean moving staff away from the many patients at A&E with potentially life-threatening conditions, so that they can work with a handful of patients with mostly minor illnesses.

“That would not be a good use of highly trained medical staff.

“We have monitored the situation closely over the past year and found no significant impact on patients or services.

“The independent patient body Healthwatch has not seen any increase in concerns about urgent care services in this time.

“Anyone with a medical emergency should dial 999 or attend A&E at Cramlington or the RVI, as urgent care services care for minor injuries and illnesses are not designed to deal with emergencies.

“If you are not sure which service to use, it’s best to call NHS 111, who can direct you to the right service and arrange transport if this is clinically appropriate.”

The CCG has recently concluded an engagement process asking local people for their views on our plans for a new urgent care service as well as the continued overnight closure of walk-in services at Rake Lane until a new service is in place.

The findings from this process will be presented for consideration by the CCG’s Governing Body on December 5.

At their meeting last week, North Tyneside Council approved a motion calling for answers.

Mrs Redfearn added: “NHS professionals do an excellent job in caring for our residents, and I fully understand the ongoing pressures on the NHS budget and resources.

“I have challenged local NHS management to be clearer on their intensions for urgent care in our borough and to change its consultation to reflect the very real concerns of local people.”

Prior to the motion, Mrs Redfearn met with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to highlight the impact changes to urgent care facilities have had on patients and their families.

And together with Deputy Mayor Coun Bruce Pickard, Mary Glindon MP and Alan Campbell MP, also met with the chair of the CCG to discuss residents’ concerns in detail.

Mrs Redfearn, said: “People regularly tell us they are confused about what urgent care they can access in North Tyneside, and are struggling to get the care they need when they need it.

“Our residents want the same quality of service as those in Northumberland, where Wansbeck and Hexham hospitals have 24/7 urgent care centres, and Newcastle, which has 24/7 provision of urgent care.

“I have written to the Minister for Health this week to urge him to review the situation in North Tyneside and immediately deliver the 24/7 urgent care facilities at North Tyneside General Hospital that were promised in June.”