Here you can read the full text of my response to the consultation:
Response to Consultation of Urgent Care Provisions in Wirral
I am responding to the Urgent Care Consultation in Wirral as the Member of Parliament for Wallasey.
Firstly, I would like to begin by saying that I did not expect to hear about these proposals through reading the newspaper, and I was very disappointed to have to do so. Services in my constituency are affected and I would have expected to have been contacted directly by the CCG before the consultation commenced.
The proposals to close the walk-in centre services across Wirral, including the well-attended VCH in Wallasey and to transfer services to a new facility at Arrowe Park hospital, and for the existing urgent care centres to become appointment only wound dressing facilities are enormously ill thought out. They will directly impact on the lives of my constituents and this process has been far from adequate.
Rather than a genuine consultation which explores the health needs of Wallasey and the surrounding communities and how best to serve them, this is nothing more than a bureaucratic tick box exercise. The explanatory documents around the proposals do not provide any substantial clarification about the new services that will be offered nor do they provide sufficient reasoning for closing existing services at a time when the NHS is facing increased demand.
I would welcome enhanced GP services for out of hours and the weekend, and for additional triaging facilities at Arrowe Park A&E, but I am clear that this must not be done at the expense of the existing walk in centres, such as the VCH walk in centre in Wallasey.
Similarly, an improved 111 service to help advise patients would be welcomed, but there has been scant information about how the service would be better quality, and when this upgrade would come into effect.
Whilst these improvements would be welcome it is baffling why the CCG is also proposing closing the existing walk-in centres. The additional services listed are not incompatible with the current system of walk-in centres. They should not be implemented whilst removing other community services that are relied upon. This new proposal will not be an improvement to the current services, or will be a more efficient use of resources, instead it will result in more fragmentation of health services.
Although I will respond to the individual questions of the consultation below, I would also like to add that I am unhappy that the consultation and questions are so leading. This does not leave any scope to explore alternative models of healthcare provision, nor does it explore the option of keeping the walk-in centres open as they are, and adding enhanced other services, such as additional triage facilities at Arrowe Park Hospital.
I am very concerned about these proposals and I have been clear that I will oppose any closures of existing walk-in centres. I hope that the CCG will not go ahead with these disastrous plans.
- How long do you think the Urgent Treatment centre should be open (15 hours or 24 hours)?
It is important that there is the right amount of care for the needs of the community in Wirral.
Closing the five walk-in centres in favour of one Urgent Treatment centre at Arrowe Park Hospital that is not open 24 hours a day, may result in an increase of people attending an already overstretched A&E department.
The closure of the walk-in centres could lead to people attending A&E for minor illnesses because they are located at the same site, rather than waiting until the next morning or ringing 111 for advice and assistance.
I am not against the provision of additional GP services out of hours to try and mitigate excess attendance at A&E, and to cope with the pressures that the NHS is under, but there is no reason why additional GP appointments or an additional triage facility at Arrowe Park needs to be at the expense of the five walk-in centres in Wirral.
It is also crucial that any GP surgeries that offer additional appointments must be conveniently located for my constituents in Wallasey, so that they are not having to travel excessive distances to surgeries in other parts of the Wirral.
It would continue to be beneficial to have current walk in centres stay as they are now, and add extra GP services for the weekend and out of hours.
- What do you think about having an urgent appointment in your local area which you can book, instead of a walk-in option?
It is vital that people can still access healthcare professionals and treatment on the same day at a convenient time and that appointments are not booked up weeks in advance, similar to situations that are seen at GP surgeries.
I do not want the addition of bookable appointments to see walk-in centres reduced to wound dressing centres, with others having to travel a considerable distance to Arrowe Park to seek treatment.
I note that one solution that was proposed to divert people away from the walk-in centres was to increase the number of GP appointments available.
The number of available GP appointments has increased but figures show that there has not been a significant reduction the attendance at walk in centres. This demonstrates that there is a clear need for walk-in centres and the proposed options to close them is not viable.
There are 21 GP surgeries and it is important that enough GP surgeries are open at the weekend and out of hours so that Wallasey residents are not forced to travel miles away to seek treatment.
It is disappointing that issues with access and transport to different surgeries, especially for elderly or vulnerable patients have not been addressed by this consultation.
- What do you think of a local walk-in option for children with symptoms such as a temperature, in addition to bookable urgent appointments?
It is important that patients are seen in a timely manner, but closing existing walk-in centres and adding other walk-in options for children is not an efficient use of resources.
There is already a lack of clarity around what services are provided and at what locations and this will do nothing but add further confusion and misconceptions.
It is concerning that the lack of signposting current services has not been addressed by this consultation.
- What is important to you when thinking about where the Childrens Urgent Care and dressings (Wound Care) service should be located?
As these are amongst the most frequently used services across Wirral, it is important that this care is delivered across the community, and should be based locally.
I do not believe that these services should be moved from the existing walk in centre sites, as there has been significant capital investment in sites such as VCH, and this should be taken into consideration and not wasted.
Basing these services in the existing sites will help to ensure that there is continuity for patients and that new travel routes or additional public transport routes will not have to be considered.
- Do you think that the model we are proposing improves on what we have now?
I do not think that the proposed model will improve on the current system.
All the correct facilities are currently in place to provide adequate care for the residents of Wallasey and the Wirral as a whole. There may steps that can be taken to improve efficiencies, but the closure of five walk-in centres will not achieve this.
It is clear that this consultation has not been undertaken with the interests of the local community in mind, but as a result of a top-down bureaucratic exercise.
Additional triaging facilities would be welcomed, but there has been a large amount of capital investment in the current locations of walk-in centres and these should not be closed at the expense of a new Urgent Treatment centre at Arrowe Park.
The main issue is that there is currently a lack of information about what the right treatment centre is for the different needs that residents have. Needs to be clarity for patients about where they can access different services, and what different services are available such diverting patients to local pharmacies.
I note that the stated aim of this reconfiguration is to provide a consistent offer of service to patients. However, I believe that this is currently offered with the existing model and that the proposed model does not streamline services, instead it further fragments the system.
There are also a number of access issues with moving the Urgent Treatment Centre to Arrowe Park for a number of my constituents. There are inadequate public transport options and travel routes for people who need to get to Arrowe Park from Wallasey and for those who struggle with mobility.
I am concerned that locating the Urgent Treatment centre at Arrowe Park will result in an increase of people calling an ambulance to take them to hospital and it will increase the strain on an already overstretched ambulance service. I also believe that locating the Urgent Treatment Centre at a hospital will add further confusion about where patients should go to obtain treatment and will increase unnecessary visits to A&E as a result.
It will also increase pressure on parking at Arrowe Park and there has been little information regarding how the need for additional infrastructure to help people access these services such as extra parking spaces would be addressed.
The CCG should instead be looking to enhance the existing model of walk in centres rather than completely scrapping them, and I hope they will listen to myself and the residents in Wirral and reconsider this damaging decision.