Health clinic move criticised by OAPs

A PENSIONERS' group reacted angrily last night to plans to relocate a walk-in health clinic away from a town centre - claiming the move “makes no sense”.

A PENSIONERS' group reacted angrily last night to plans to relocate a walk-in health clinic away from a town centre - claiming the move “makes no sense”.

Barbara Williamson, chairman of Colchester Pensioners Action group, said the facility in the town would become less accessible to old people.

She claimed if it had to move from its current Middleborough home, it should be further into the heart of the town rather than away from it.

She said: “The walk-in centre should be central and convenient so people can get there easily - that's what they are for.”


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Mrs Williamson made her comments after the launch of an eight-week public consultation into the proposal to move Colchester's NHS walk-in centre - which treats minor injuries and illnesses - and out-of-hours service.

Both services are currently based in The Octagon building in Middleborough, just off the town centre, but Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) wants to relocate them to its new primary care centre in Turner Road, which is due to open in the spring near the town's general hospital

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The PCT believes the transfer would enable it to improve services.

A spokesman said its board members, who officially “prefer” the option of relocating to Turner Road, believed the walk-in centre and out-of-hours service needed to develop their “strategic focus”.

This would mean concentrating more on preventing avoidable hospital emergency admissions and to take on some of the routine Accident and Emergency attendances for minor injuries and illnesses.

The PCT is billed by Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust for procedures that Colchester General Hospital performs for local people, each of which can run into thousands of pounds.

This cash could be saved by the PCT if it provided the care cheaper itself, and it could then transfer the money into other frontline services.

Yesterday, however, Mrs Williamson said that putting the walk-in-centre near to the Accident and Emergency department on Turner Road would be “doubling up” services in the same area.

“Putting the two things together doesn't make sense,” she said yesterday. “It's a contradiction.

“If anything, the walk in centre should be further into the town centre. The idea is that it should be accessible.

“People can't walk to Turner Road from the town centre, and there is already a large amount of traffic going up there to the hospital.

“Even where it is now you have to walk down a hill from the main area of Colchester.

“If it moves, older people will find it more inaccessible than it is now. They find it difficult enough getting to the hospital already.

“The walk-in centre should be central and convenient so people can get there easily - that's what they are for.”

Walk-in centres were introduced nationally in 2,000 and the nurse-led Colchester clinic has been based at Middleborough since 2004. It has become an extremely popular service, treating more than 28,000 people in its first year.

PCT chairman Maggie Shackell stressed that no decision had been made on the relocation, although she confirmed it was the preferred option for the trust.

“We are a listening trust and we try to do what is best for patients,” she said.

“Relocating the walk-in centre will help with hospital admission avoidance. It will help avoid people going into hospital and into Accident and emergency.

“It will also enhance services, particularly diagnostic services.”

Mrs Shackell said that the trust was also considering deploying a nurse at Colchester Cornerstone, another of its town centre sites, who would be able to offer advice and information.

She added the walk-in centre's proximity to the new primary care centre - which will have diagnostic equipment such as X-ray machines - would be convenient for patients, because they could be referred from one to the other with a minimum of travel.

“However, this is not set in tablets of stone. Preferred options can be turned around. We are consulting,” she added.

Public meetings will be held during the consultation period, which ends on 12 May, and poster displays and copies of the full and summary consultation documents will be available at the existing walk-in centre and Colchester Cornerstone.

Other ways for people to give their views are outlined in the consultation document.

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