Health chiefs defend hospital decision after MP criticism

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

Health chiefs have defended their decision over a hospital unit despite falling under criticism.

North Tyneside Clinical Commission Group announced on Monday they were going out for public views on keeping the urgent care centre at North Tyneside General Hospital closed overnight.

The facility has been closed between 10pm and 8am since December last year due to falling numbers, with patients having to visit The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington for minor injuries or ailments.

North Tyneside CCG is now looking for a provider to come in and run a new scheme from October next year which will see the urgent care centre open from 8am to 10pm, and a out of office home visit running weekends and overnight.

But the move has come under fire from North Tyneside’s two Labour MPs – Alan Campbell and Mary Glindon.

However, CCG officials say the move is to ensure money is spent on the right services and there was a lack of demand at North Tyneside for the urgent care centre to be open overnight.

Dr John Matthews, local GP and Chairman of NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are determined to spend our local NHS’s money on the best possible mix of services to deliver the highest quality of care for patients in North Tyneside.

“We are already making a lot of improvements in the borough like providing over 1,000 extra GP appointments every week. The additional appointments are available at short notice on evenings and weekends, and are the latest step towards improving access to services for residents of North Tyneside.

“In the 12 months prior to the overnight closure, the urgent care centre was used by an average of only three to four people per night.

“Of this small number, over two thirds of cases were for people with very minor injuries and ailments that required little or no direct treatment.

“The reality is that you could count the patients using the Rake Lane walk-in service at night on the fingers of one hand.

“What we’re looking to do means we can focus our staffing on the busiest times of day rather than spending large amounts of money keeping an empty building open all night.

“It has become increasingly difficult to justify the decision to remove skilled staff from A&E in order to operate a service with very low demand and little clinical need.

“Urgent care services are there to treat injuries or illnesses that need immediate care, but are not serious enough to go to A&E.

“Emergency services like A&E are not affected by this change.

“It is important to stress that the residents of North Tyneside still have access to a range of urgent care services during the overnight, including the GP Out of Hours service, NHS 111 and the A&E departments in Cramlington and Newcastle.

“We have monitored the situation closely since the closure of the overnight walk-in service at Rake Lane in December 2016.

“The number of attendances at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington has increased by only one per evening, which strongly suggests that people are accessing the alternative services which are most convenient to them.

“We are currently asking for people’s views on this and you can do so by contacted us via our website – www.northtynesideccg.nhs.uk.

“We will be using this information to make a final decision in early December about the new service provision from October 2018.

The new service would consist of an urgent treatment centre offering GP-led care for minor injuries and minor illnesses between 8am and 10pm, 7 days a week. In addition, an out of hours GP home visiting service will provide home-based clinical care between 6.30pm and 8am on weekdays and 24/7 at weekends.