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‘Time is not on our side’ to save Norwich NHS walk-in health centre

PUBLISHED: 06:30 30 April 2014 | UPDATED: 11:47 30 April 2014

Timber Hill Health Centre

Timber Hill Health Centre

©Archant Photographic 2010

The head of a GP-led group in Norwich has warned that “time is not on our side” to secure the future of a busy NHS walk-in centre in the city.

Support from across the country

Support has begun to flood in from across the country to retain a NHS walk-in centre in Norwich.

Timber Hill Health Centre is a valued facility by people in Norfolk and Norwich. However, around 30pc of walk-in patients live outside the county.

Lynne Lingley, of Farnborough, Hampshire, said: “My family live in Norwich and I have found the drop in centre extremely easy to get to. Also my mother, who is 93, can walk to it with no trouble and my son uses it. It is in the perfect location for people all over to access it being in the heart of Norwich. It would be ridiculous to move it.”

Kate Baillie, from Margate, said: “The surgery is in a very convenient location. Lovely helpful staff and doctors. Always appointments available. Not long waiting times. Close to pharmacy. Brilliant surgery all round.”

Colette Bloomfield, from London, added: “The people of Norwich have benefited so much from this walk-in centre and with the GP services too full to take more people in locally they need an alternative. Take this away and you’ll see a rise in hospital attendance.”

Carol Hewson, of Ashton under Lyne, said: “As I work in Norwich through the week, I have nowhere else to go if I need medical treatment when I am here.”

Jonathon Fagge, chief executive officer of Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), helped commission Timber Hill Health Centre as a management consultant in 2009. However, a question mark was raised over the future of the GP practice and walk-in centre as a result of Castle Mall restaurant redevelopment plans.

The owners of the shopping centre have offered Norwich Practices Ltd (NPL), which runs Timber Hill Health Centre, an alternative home on level two of the Mall. However, Mr Fagge said there were lots of “complexities” about the walk-in centre moving because of relocation costs and “conflicting” NHS advice on how to best manage urgent care.

Norwich CCG took over control of local NHS purse strings in April 2013 following a reform of health services. However, the CCG plays a “very limited role” in the Timber Hill Health Centre problem because NHS England, which has a regional base in Cambridge, is responsible for commissioning primary care services.

In his weekly blog, Mr Fagge said: “If we measure success on its popularity it has been a triumph. It meets a need - or at the very least a significant number of wants - for our population seeking help or advice from the NHS. It’s current problem highlights the challenges we have in designing services for our population, and in managing the current split in responsibilities across different commissioning organisations. This isn’t beyond the wit of the NHS to resolve, but there will have to be some fairly extensive discussions about who foots how much of the bill for any relocation. Time is not on our side.”

The owners of Castle Mall, InfraRed, has offered to pay around 40pc of the refit costs for the walk-in centre to move from level four to two of the site. However, officials from NPL said they could not afford the higher rents and relocation costs.

Mr Fagge added: “There are opportunities here of course, but the final complexity is the emerging and conflicting advice and evidence about how best to manage urgent care. There are models for walk-in or urgent care centres co-located with the local hospitals. Some parts of the country are developing primary care hubs in their larger GP surgeries with extended hours across the weekend. Some are keeping their walk-in centres just as they are to act as an intermediate facility between general practice and A&E, and trying to take some of the pressure off both. We may not commission primary care, but we do commission A&E, and access to one clearly affects demand for the other.”

“A two year contract extension to give us a year to analyse the emerging evidence and agree the best future model for the city, and then a year to properly commission and mobilise it would have been ideal. Instead we will have to work with NHS England to develop an interim as well as a long term solution, while absolutely minimising the cost to the taxpayer, and maintaining good access to care for local people.”

How has the health centre helped you? Email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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6 comments

  • What a shambolic bit of forward planning. This tenancy milestone has been known from the outset of the WIC opening, it is just lazy thinking if they had simply assumed it would get automatically renewed. So to start bleating about it at the 11th hour gets very little sympathy from me. There is a lot of empty commercial property just a stones throw away in Duke Street, with good access and parking available on site or 2 mins away in St Andrews car park - and they will all be a lot cheaper to rent than refurbished space in Castle Mall. To Mr Fagge I would say: This is a problem of your own making so stop whining and just get on with it

    Report this comment

    Lucioperca

    Thursday, May 1, 2014

  • It does not matter how you spin this story, the walk in centre was always on a short term lease so those who planned it should be held to account. As far as I am concerned those who 'planned' it must be held to account. If it costs money to move those 'planners' responsible should be made to leave and without a large payoff. They are just too careless with our money. There are many excellent medical staff in the NHS but I despair, from personal experience, of some the administration staff who too often don't seem to care nor are particularly competent. Meanwhile, either take up the offer from Castle Mall or move to another location where there is good free parking and on an easily accessible bus route.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Samantha, there is a lift and escalators which are painfully obvious if you open your eyes. The Castle Mall should not have to suffer an entire derelict floor for the poor planning of the NHS, who obviously knew their lease was ending soon and some form of plan would be needed. This part of the city really needs revitalisation and the WIC is currently preventing that.

    Report this comment

    Mooseyt3

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • It is not about whether the other surgeries will cope for me my local surgery is always fantastic. This however will be a blow to me as it's out of hours services it provides has helped me out on several occassions and been a god send. Including when my sons knee was cut open and when I had such bad pain in my tooth that I could not stand up when no dentist would help they would to name just two occassions they have helped me in the last few years. I also know of a friend who has a run of bad health and they have been a god send to her out of hours for the last year. Of course this is just my perspective and they help in other areas. those who are unregistered for whatever reason in the area etc. It is easy to write a comment which does nothing more than slam the edp... and is irrelevant....and say its all gonna be ok its scaremoungering...it isnt that at all it is merely reporting on the facts I have not seen the basic story change since this came to light. Also I am not sure what the access is like on the other leve for those trying to carry poorly children or with disabilities. It isnt as simple as saying just shut up and move it or they would. Constructive comments are always of interest in me Mooseyt3 your comment was rather childish, rude and irrelevant. Go back to your bridge.

    Report this comment

    Samantha Moore

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • Well something needs to be done quickly and I am amazed that there are not more of these centres across Norwich. Before the very excellent Greyfriars opened in GY and when the offspring were younger, I used the Norwich centre when it was at Thorpe a couple of times These centres give a great deal of reassurance in times when out of hours GP services are hard to access, when GP surgeries still have restricted hours and hard to get appointments and when there is something wrong, burn , injury or worrying fever in a child for instance which is a bit too bad to cope with at home but not quite bad enough for A&E. I am convinced that these open long hours centres take the weight off A&E and from what I have seen at Greyfriars are of value because they can treat those who have not yet registered with a GP surgery-the transient, new migrants etc and also visitors and holiday makers.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

  • This is nothing more than scaremongering, if it is shut, it won't shut for long and it might well be moved, but seriously it at a stage where the NHS, hospitals and doctors surgeries won't be able top cope if it were closed for any length of time.

    Report this comment

    Old Long Balls

    Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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