The New Cross Walk-In Centre is to get a three month reprieve by the NHS following overwhelming public opposition to its closure.
The clinic, which is part of Waldron Health Centre, provides health care for patients with minor injuries or medical conditions who are unable to get an urgent appointment with their GP.
Lewisham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced a three-month extension for the Walk-In Centre, after a 12-week consultation report found that 82.2 per cent of local people opposed the proposal to close the centre when its contract expires on December 31.
Despite previously claiming that an extension to the contract would be unfeasible, the CCG have now confirmed that the centre – which is South London’s only remaining walk-in facility – will remain open until March 31.
Concerns that the centre’s closure would leave vulnerable groups without access to primary healthcare services over the winter period had been raised by Lewisham and Deptford MP Vicky Foxcroft. Campaigning groups Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and Sisters Uncut were also critical of the decision.
The campaigners warned that those not registered with a GP, including undocumented migrants and the homeless, would have to go to Lewisham Hospital if unable to go to the walk-in centre and thus put greater pressure on the hospital’s A&E services.
Hugely relieved Lewisham CCG have agreed to extend the contract of the New Cross Walk-In Centre for three months pic.twitter.com/1bHica79Qk
— Joe Dromey (@Joe_Dromey) November 9, 2017
New Cross Councillor Joe Dromey pointed out that the consultation found that 40 per cent of people using the centre said they would go to hospital if the walk-in centre wasn’t there. He said: “We’re concerned about potentially thousands of additional visits to Lewisham Hospital, and other hospitals in the area, and that would put a huge amount of pressure on the hospital when it’s already struggling to meet demands.”
Councillor Dromey’s petition opposing the closure has gathered more than 1000 signatures, and was delivered to the CCG at a meeting of its governmenlast week.
During the meeting, the CCG recognised that it has to do more in order to ensure primary care services demand can be met. Their decision about the long-term future of the centre will be deferred until a Governing Body meeting on January 11 2018, making use of the additional time to review the feedback and alternatives available.
Lewisham CCG have suggested that the centre’s closure would encourage patients to register with a GP and have proposed an additional 30,000 appointments to be offered by the GP Extended Access Service.
The CCG has also suggested that the number of residents not registered with a GP is lower than campaigners have suggested. A spokesperson told Eastlondonlines: “The CCG reviewed the data from the walk-in centre for 2016/17 […] and potential number is not as significant as first perceived.”
Councillor Dromey, however, remains concerned: “The information we’ve been getting from the community and the consultation suggests that people use the walk-in centre because they can’t get to see their GP in time.
“We would like to see the continuation of a walk-in facility in New Cross, so that people who can’t get a GP appointment immediately are able to see a doctor or a nurse when they need to.”