The ‘phased closure’ of Accrington’s walk-in centre has been scrapped - in yet another change of heart from health chiefs.

The East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has released details of its ‘Extended Access GP service’, after confirming earlier this month that the walk-in centre - based at Accrington Victoria Hospital - would begin to be scaled back from last Sunday, April 8 ahead of full closure in June.

NHS East Lancashire CCG told the Observer they have decided to spend more time giving information to service users about the replacement services.

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A spokesperson said: “The Health Access Centre within Accrington Victoria Hospital will close at 8pm on Sunday 17 June 2018.

“From now until then, we have decided there will be no reduction in service. This will allow us to give more information to people who attend the walk-in centre about the full range of local services on offer which includes the new bookable GP service in Hyndburn.”

The CCG say that every GP practice in Hyndburn is involved in its new ‘Extended Access GP service’ system, which allows patients to make out-of-hours appointments through their GP practice.

These appointments would be from 6.30pm to 8.30pm in the evening during the week, and from 10am to 4pm on a Saturday and 10am until 2pm on a Sunday. They would be available in addition to the usual GP surgery opening hours from 8am to 6.30pm.

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Walk-in centre campaigners have dismissed the replacement service, however - claiming the new system cannot accommodate demand. More than 20,000 people have opposed plans to close the facility.

Campaign leader Kimberley Whitehead said it has actually reduced the number of hours for which doctors would be available.

She said: “Let’s be clear, there isn’t any more GP availability being created by this new service. The available hours have been reduced to just 20 hours per week and we cannot see how this can accommodate demand. We would ask the CCG for more transparency of what the transition plan is and how the ‘improved’ service is being measured.”

Kimberley added: “It seems that the CCG are making ‘off the cuff’ decisions.”

Dr Rachel Halstead, GP at The Royle in Great Harwood, said: “Staff at all Hyndburn practices are able to book directly into the Extended Access service. The way we have set up the system means that patients can be booked into the evening and weekend appointments if they cannot be seen or are unable to attend during normal surgery hours.”

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To close much-used facility is madness

THE numbers for Accrington Victoria walk-in centre speak for themselves.

Around 23,000 people made it clear they oppose plans to close this vital local facility. Figures from 2016 show around 44,000 people were using the hospital a year - more than 120 a day. But this is not just about numbers - it is about people. To take this much-used facility away from people is madness.

It has now received six stays of execution but needs to be saved permanently.

Hyndburn often finds itself at the thin end of the wedge when it comes to cuts, and the Observer stands squarely with our readers when we say: Hands off our walk-in centre.