Union urges NHS to listen to patients’ views over future of walk-in centre in Norwich

Timber Hill Health Centre in the Castle Mall.

Timber Hill Health Centre in the Castle Mall. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

A doctors' union has urged NHS chiefs to listen to the views of local patients after the future of a Norwich walk-in health centre was thrown into doubt.

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The Evening News launched a campaign on Monday calling on commissioners to ensure that a NHS walk-in facility stays in the city after a question mark was raised over Timber Hill Health Centre.

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The centre has been helping local patients for five years. However, the lease of its current premises has expired and an offer to move to a larger location in Castle Mall has been rejected by Norwich Practices Ltd because of refit costs and higher rents. It's current home on level four forms part of plans for a new restaurant quarter by the owners of the Mall.

Norwich's MPs, Chloe Smith and Simon Wright, will hold a meeting with NHS England officials tomorrow to try and find a solution for the health centre, which has 8,000 registered patients and more than 75,000 walk-in cases a year.

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Fifty of England's 230 NHS walk-in centres have closed over the last three years. However, the facilities provide an important out-of-hours role in the health service, said Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's Council.

He said: 'The BMA has always said that the provision of walk-in centres should be based on patient need. Where there is a clear local demand for the services offered, walk-in centres provide important access to care in the community and so it is vital that patients are involved in deciding the future of walk-in centres in their area.'

'Commissioners need to carefully assess existing service provision, local need and the interests of patients when deciding on the future of walk-in centres and how best to efficiently deliver patient care in their area.'

A report by health regulator Monitor last year said that the closure of walk-in centres risked putting more pressure on A&E departments. The poll of almost 2,000 patients found that 22pc of respondents had tried to contact a GP practice but found no appointment, or none at a convenient time, and 21pc said they would have gone to A&E.

A spokesman for NHS England said: 'NHS England understand that the service provided by the Timber Hill Health Centre is a highly valued in the local area and that there are significant concerns amongst patients and carers who depend on this service. We are continuing to work with all partners to identify options for the future and work towards a satisfactory solution.'

More than 130 people have so far signed the Evening News' petition calling for the NHS to retain a walk-in centre in the heart of Norwich.

You can also sign the petition online at www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/health/timber-hill-health-centre-petition

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