Campaigner fury at health centre axeing

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CAMPAIGNERS have branded a decision by health bosses to close the Kirkby-based Ashfield Health Village and move it to King’s Mill Hospital as ‘a disgrace’.

Board members at NHS Nottinghamshire County voted to integrate the services currently offered by the walk-in centre into the emergency departments at King’s Mill during a meeting on Thursday.

They say the move has been prompted by an increase in the number of patients going to the hospital’s Accident and Emergency department rather than visiting their GP, the fact that GP’s nearby are offering the same services and that more vulnerable people such as the elderly do not use walk-in centres as much.

The move follows a 100-day public consultation, which began in November and,according to the results, 41 per cent of people wanted to see it integrated at King’s Mill, while 30 per cent wanted it to stay where it is in Kirkby.

During the meeting, Dr Pat Higham said people needed to be reassured about what services they should access.

She added: “We have to go much further in informing the public and building their confidence so they know where to go.”

Doug Black, Medical Director from NHS Nottinghamshire County, said: “We don’t want people with primary care problems to present at 10 o’clock at the front door of the emergency department.”

Today’s decision shows the tough challenges the NHS is currently facing and it was a difficult decision to make. We need to make sure the changes this brings are more efficient, avoid duplication of services and help patients get the ‘right care, first time. We are confident that we can deliver reassurances to patients and the public about access to local GP services.”The changes will not be implemented until a further meeting by the overview and scrutiny committee on 4th April which oversees major changes.

Fired up protesters, who were backed by Ashfield MP Gloria de Piero, had gathered outside NHS Nottinghamshire County’s headquarters at Ransom Wood Business Park ahead of the meeting to hand over a petition containing around 3,300 signatures from people opposed to the controversial proposals. Leading the campaign was Kirkby resident Jim Aspinall, who blasted the decision saying the views of Ashfield residents had not been taken into consideration.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “The consultation and the whole presentation to the board was based on acceptance. There was absolutely no reference to the impact on the community or listening to the community’s views.

“What an absolute disgrace. We had no chance - if that is an exercise in democracy, it is not a democracy I know.

“It was unfair, unreasonable and undemocratic. There was no view of the public at all - it was all clinical and financial and nothing to do with the impact on the people.”

Mike Lowe, from the Patient Participation Group in Kirkby, said that people often use the walk-in centre because they cannot get a convenient appointment with their GP.

He said: “We have found that in Kirkby people can’t get in to see them (their GP) for a week or a fortnight. At the walk-in centre they are on their way after half an hour.”