Today the Observer is joining forces with Hyndburn council to demand that one of the borough’s most valued health services is spared from the axe.
We are calling on the public to rally behind the walk-in GP centre at Accrington Victoria Hospital – which is visited by an average of 100 users every day.
The popular centre, set up in 2009, allows people to see a doctor on the day without needing to make an appointment but is under threat from health bosses after an overspend of £1m last year.
Around 40 people, including councillors, residents and patients, patient support groups and Observer staff gathered at the hospital earlier this week to launch the campaign.
An online petition has also been set up with more than 320 signatures so far.
Hyndburn deputy council leader Clare Pritchard fears the closure could threaten the future of the whole hospital.
She said: “We could lose this vital service at the hospital for local people and are urging everyone to back the campaign to keep our hospital services, as once we lose them, there’ll be no way back.”
The East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has begun consulting on the unit, which could close in 12 months.
The centre is currently accessed by around 35,000 Hyndburn users a year, up nearly 50 per cent since 2012. Russ McLean, chairman of the Patients Voice Group in Pennine Lancashire, said the closure threat was a ‘travesty’.
He said: “It is absolutely terrible what they are planning. This is an absolutely essential service.
“The whole point of the health access centre was so that patients could be seen straight away.”
Tory group leader Peter Britcliffe welcomed the Observer’s campaign. He said: “It’s great that a local newspaper is at the heart of local events. I think the walk-in centre provides an extremely valuable service to residents but we need to look at the issue of people using it out of convenience which leads to escalating costs. I am very optimistic from what’s gone on and the strength of public feeling shown.”
Centre user Sheila Baker, 83, from Accrington, said it would be a disaster for elderly people in the area if it was to close. She said: “I think it does a brilliant service and you can’t fault them.
“I had a stroke 12 months ago and I might not still be here if I hadn’t come straight to the centre.”
East Lancs CCG promised that the views of patients, residents and community groups would be fully considered.
A spokesman said: “We are conducting an engagement exercise to understand the views of patients and the public. As a CCG, we are responsible for achieving the best value for each pound it spends on behalf of our population in East Lancashire. With the considerable pressure we have on NHS funding, we need to decide if the GP walk-in centre is the best use of resources. Your views will help us to do this.”
There will be an extraordinary meeting of the full council at 7pm on Thursday, November 14 to discuss the closure threat.
A consultation exercise is underway about the future of the centre, with an online survey at the www.eastlancsccg. nhs.uk website.
Questionnaires are available on the East Lancashire CCG’s website, GP surgeries, libraries, council buildings and the GP walk-in centre. The consultation deadline is October 30.
To sign the petition visit: http://chn.ge/GRm8aR.