Last night I attended the Prestwich Township Forum in the mistaken belief that the presentation by the Bury Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG for short) was intending to consult the public on the drastic proposal to close the NHS walk-in centres, currently located in Bury town centre and Prestwich Longfield.
Silly me. As we were pointedly reminded by Dr Victoria Moyle (lead GP for urgent care at NHS Bury CCG and a practicing Bury GP herself), this was a public ‘engagement’ not a consultation. In other words, the senior management team of Bury CCG have recommended the closure of the walk-in centres and there is not a damn thing you, me or anyone else in Bury can do about it. The engagement is really about finding out how the CCG need to tailor the future service (dubbed the Bury Virtual Hub) so that the public are no longer ‘confused’ about which service to access.
Dr Moyle thinks that Bury residents don’t know where to go when they are ill and need educating – this will be a big part of the engagement and promotion of future services. But let’s roll back a little, what NHS services do we have at the moment? Well, if you are registered with a GP service in the Bury area, during normal working hours, you can telephone your GP surgery and make an appointment. If you are lucky enough to get through very early in the morning, you might get an appointment that day or if it is less urgent, probably in about 2 weeks time (certainly with my GP practice). If your need is more urgent, but not life threatening, then there are a couple of options: telephone BARDOC (for an out of hours GP visit), call 111 or visit one of the two walk-in centres. Finally, for life threatening and emergency cases, there is 999 and/or Accident and Emergency (A&E). Most people, I feel, know which one of these options is the most appropriate and make use of the right service they need at the right time. The walk-in centres fill in the gap nicely between overworked GPs who cannot fit you in within 24-48 hours and A&E which all admit, are under massive pressures like never before. Bury CCG admit that locally, A&E admissions are rising.
The current combined operating costs of the two NHS walk-in centres is said to be around £800,000 and figures released show that last year the centres received a total of 67,000 visits. I admit, maths is not one of my strengths, but even I can work out (with the aid of a calculator) that works out around £12 per patient, per visit. It is estimated (by those more in the know that I am), that a typical A&E visit costs around £150-200 per patient per visit. That is a massive difference and surely the walk-in centres represent fantastic value for money, as well as reducing Bury A&E pressures.
Bury CCG tell us that walk-in centre visits are falling year on year. They estimate this fall to be about 9,000 patients per year. I admit, this is a trend worth investigating. Where are these people going instead of a walk-in centre? With GP appointments harder than ever to secure and A&E admissions on the rise, it’s easy to guess.
The CCG wants to close your NHS walk-in centres and redirect the money to A&E services, while redirecting Bury-registered patients to their local GPS/medical centres or nearest hospital. The CCG seem to have forgotten the reason the walk-in centres were created in the first place.
The plan is bonkers. No-one at the Prestwich Township Forum meeting bought into the CCG’s plan (including me). I tried to go into the meeting with an open mind, but I just cannot see the sense in this. It does not save the CCG/NHS money (in fact, it costs them more) and simply puts pressure on an already overloaded emergency department. And what about the patients who do not have Bury GPs or are merely visiting Bury when they need non-emergency care?
I urge everyone reading this to have your say using the Bury CCG survey here http://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2BNQJG5
A paper copy of the survey can be obtained by calling 0161 762 3166 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Views can be sent in via the CCG website feedback facility; by e-mail (as above) or by letter to NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group, Communications and Engagement Team (Urgent Care Redesign), 21 Silver Street, Bury, BL9 0EN
Publicly, both Bury Liberal Democrats and Bury Labour have stated they are against the closures of the walk-in centres and both parties have launched petitions against their closure. As far as I can see, only Bury Liberal Democrats and Labour are doing anything about this.
The Bury Liberal Democrat petition can be signed here: http://eepurl.com/cdIH85