Bobby Dean, Lib Dems Parliamentary Spokesperson for Lewisham Deptford, has written to the Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the proposed closure of New Cross Walk-In Centre.
He has criticised the proposal, the poor public consultation around it and has called for the process to be paused. His full letter is below:
Dear Lewisham CCG
I am writing to express my concern about the planned closure of the NHS Walk-In Centre in New Cross. In relation to both the potential loss of services itself and the manner in which the public and health professionals have been consulted on the decision.
Firstly, it is my understanding that the closure of the Walk-In Centre will mean the end of such a service in South East London altogether. This decision will therefore not only impact patients from in and around New Cross, but throughout the borough and beyond. It is essential that such an impactful decision is not carried through in haste.
As you note in your public materials, it is a well used service and is in particular well-used by people that are not registered with their GP - making up as much as 28.6% of all Walk-In Users. These non-registered users tend to be vulnerable patients from ‘hard-to-reach’ backgrounds. Their reasons for not being registered are ordinarily complex and will not be resolved by simply withdrawing services to non-registered patients.
The suggestion is that GP Extended Access Services can help fill the void. Not only do they do not provide services to the non-registered but, whilst I am supportive of GPEA more generally, it is also recognised that it is not a widely understood service in Lewisham at the moment. I recently attended a Pan-Lewisham Patient Group meeting and hardly anybody there had heard of it, let alone understood it - and these are very engaged service users.
In the short-term, I am concerned that non-registered and registered patients alike are going to either miss out on the services they need or add to the waiting times at A&E. A problem exacerbated by the fact the change in service will take place in the middle of a busy winter period with no transitionary period. In the long-term, I am unconvinced that GPEA services have proven that they are able to cope with subsuming the nature and capacity of ex-Walk-In service users.
With regards to the public consultation, I am concerned that this is being viewed as little other than a legal obligation. For all of the talk of engaging with local people, what choice is really being offered here? Where is the invitation for new ideas? The public documents state that the contract for the Walk-In centre ends on 31 December 2017 and makes clear that there is no intention to renew. If people oppose this closure, where is the alternative proposal for the public to consider?
I am further concerned to learn, through Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign’s letter to you and from private consultation, that there even local health professionals have been inadequately consulted. Their input is, of course, essential.
It is with the above in mind that I call on you to pause this process. With the contract ending so soon, it will be imperative to begin negotiating at least an interim arrangement for the Centre. This will then provide adequate time for you to address the concerns raised by residents in this consultation period, of which I hope you will be publishing, before undertaking a genuine public consultation exercise that offers the option for retaining Walk-In Services in some form.
I look forward to seeing you positively address Lewisham residents’ concerns soon.