Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to meet Norwich MP over threatened walk-in health centre

The Timberhill entrance to Castle Mall.Photo by Simon Finlay.

The Timberhill entrance to Castle Mall.Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt is to meet Norwich North MP Chloe Smith over the city's threatened NHS walk-in centre.

As reported, the Timber Hill Health Centre could be forced to relocate after Castle Mall unveiled plans for a new restaurant quarter in the area of the shopping centre where it is based.

The lease for the walk-in centre has not been renewed and is due to run out in September.

The five-year lease for the walk-in centre has not been renewed and is due to run out in September. Castle Mall landlords offered to help pay for a move to another site in the mall, but this was rejected by the NHS.

Hundreds have signed petitions to keep the health centre in the city centre and MPs Chloe Smith and Simon Wright have entered talks with the NHS and Castle Mall bosses.

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Now Chloe Smith has secured a meeting with the Secretary of State for Health to make the case for keeping the centre at the highest level of government.

She said: 'The NHS has confirmed that they want to keep the centre in the city centre, so I want to make sure the secretary of state is absolutely aware of what we need in Norwich to cover people's health needs.'

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Mr Hunt agreed to the meeting in parliamentary questions this morning, and a date is to be fixed.

Ms Smith said she is still chasing updates from the NHS and Castle Mall's owners.

She added it is crucial that the centre is not moved out of the city as it helps relieve pressure on A&E, and people have already suffered disruption when the centre moved from Thorpe St Andrew.

Timber Hill Health Centre treats 78,000 patients a year and has a growing list of 8,000 registered patients for its GP services.

Castle Mall owners InfraRed want to attract six restaurant businesses into the Timberhill entrance area, but that means relocating the health centre to another part of the mall.

InfraRed had previously said it was in discussions with the Timber Hill Health Centre, which is run by Norwich Practices Limited, to move it from level four to a 'larger and more central site' on level two near the post office.

But Katie Norton, director of commissioning for NHS England, said the decision to move had been rejected by the centre, because of the cost.

The health centre cost £2m to open in July 2009.

It employs 90 staff and has younger registered patients than many other GP practices, as it was aimed at providing health services to some harder to reach sections of the population.

It serves a high number of men aged 15-45.

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