Pensioners' fury as health centre closed

PENSIONERS have voiced their opposition after health bosses decided to close a popular walk-in centre in Colchester.

John Howard

PENSIONERS have voiced their opposition after health bosses decided to close a popular walk-in centre in Colchester.

North East Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) agreed yesterday to approve a new health centre in the town offering a GP-led appointment and walk-in service 365 days a year.

But the new facility, at the Colchester Primary Care Centre in Turner Road, will lead to the closure of the existing Colchester NHS walk-in centre and GP out-of-hours service at Middleborough.

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People living near the Middleborough site, on the edge of the town centre, reacted with dismay at the news and said the Turner Road facility was harder to reach, especially for pensioners.

There have been two campaigns to safeguard the Middleborough site and Tony Constable, spokesman for the Colchester Pensioners Action Group, said the decision to close the centre “did not make sense”.

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“The health service is spending a lot of money which is not going in the best direction,” he said.

“Turner Road is up to two miles from the town centre and it would have made more sense to have a facility at the heart of the community.”

The PCT carried out an eight-week public consultation, seeking people's views on its proposals, the types of service people would like to see offered, and on moving the existing walk-in site.

Dr Paul Zollinger-Read , chief executive of the PCT, said: “The existing walk-in centre has served the local population well for the past four years but we have an opportunity here to move our patient services on to a new level.

“We are confident that the broader range of services offered at the new GP-led health centre, and other patient benefits such as easier parking and closer proximity to other health services, will be seen as a welcome step forward in improved levels of healthcare.

“It should be stressed that this new GP-led health centre is an additional local facility and is in no way intended to replace any existing practices. We have an expanding population and this new service will help ensure we continue to provide the best possible health services to the people of north east Essex.”

Essex County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the body responsible for monitoring changes to health provision, considered the PCT's proposals to incorporate the existing walk-in centre services within the new GP-led health centre “sensible”.

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